Arthritis is a blanket term that refers to chronic swelling in one or more joints. There are several types of arthritis, each with different causes. Despite the variety of types and causes, many people associate arthritis with the aging process. While the likelihood of developing arthritis may increase with age, aging does not necessarily mean arthritis is inevitable.
The most common form of arthritis to strike older individuals is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder of the joints found most commonly in patients over the age of 50. This condition is brought on by the wearing away of cartilage, the shock-absorbing tissue that prevents bone on bone contact in joints, which may happen following an injury or simply over time as one ages. Symptoms may include aching, soreness, and pain in joints, as well as visible “knots” in smaller joints, such as the fingers. This condition is not reversible, but pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and natural supplements may help to lessen the severity of symptoms. Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and increased physical activity, may also help reduce symptoms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, commonly known as RA, is an autoimmune disorder. With an autoimmune disorder, the patient’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the patient’s body – in the case of RA, the healthy tissue that is attacked is in the joints. While this condition is not specifically age-related, it may progress over time if left untreated, so a patient who has been living with RA for a long time may experience more severe symptoms. RA typically attacks joints symmetrically – for instance, it generally does not attack the right knee and leave the left knee unscathed. Symptoms of RA may include joint swelling, pain in affected joints, and fatigue. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent the progression of the disease, as well as making symptoms more manageable.
The odds of arthritis may increase as one ages, but that does not mean a patient has to simply lie back and accept the pain. If you are experiencing chronic joint pain, schedule an appointment with your regular doctor or a rheumatologist for a proper diagnosis and determination of the best course of treatment for your individual case.