Arthritis in Seniors
Arthritis is a common health condition prevalent across age populations and demographics, presenting mild and severe symptoms, some of which can result in significant debilitation.
Nearly 60 million individuals in the United States annually report symptoms and diagnoses of arthritis. This statistic is only expected to rise in the coming years. Of this population of individuals with arthritis, 80% are above the age of 45, and nearly 50% are over the age of 65.
In what follows, we’ll be exploring the prevalence of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, in the senior population. Further, we will discuss both the causes and treatment options available, including that of orthopedic joint replacements. We will be emphasizing the knees, hips, and shoulders.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that commonly affects the elderly population and is a common form of arthritis seen all over the world. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage, which is the tissue that cushions the ends of bones in the joints. Cartilage is made of collagen and protein substance, and as it deteriorates, the bones begin to rub against each other, causing breakdown at the end of the bone. This “bone on bone” phenomenon does not allow for the smooth bending of the joint and leads to symptoms of pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving the joint.
While osteoarthritis can affect any of the joints, some of its most commonly affected areas include the knees, hips, and shoulders. This holds especially true in the senior population. Other commonly affected joints include the hands, fingers, and spinal column.
With a wide array of signs and symptoms, the diagnosis of arthritis of any kind can be a timely endeavor. The most common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of mobility and flexibility, inflammation at the source, and debilitation.
The most common risk factor of osteoarthritis is age. Hence the majority of individuals with osteoarthritis are over the age of 65. According to the Arthritis Foundation, being over the age of 50 is a major risk factor.
Other risk factors include sports-related injuries, obesity, diabetes, family history and heredity, poor posture, menopause, gender (women have higher prevalence rates), and other joint-related medical conditions.
Treatments for Osteoarthritis
As a degenerative condition prevalent particularly in the aging population, osteoarthritis, depending on the severity, can make it difficult for individuals to carry out the simplest of daily activities.
While there is no absolute cure for osteoarthritis at this time, several treatment options are available, ranging from holistic and non-invasive modalities to medically invasive options such as surgery.
Treatment for osteoarthritis typically focuses on managing pain and improving joint function. This may include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle and weight management, and in severe cases, surgery.
The following is a summarized detail of the most common and effective treatment options for osteoarthritis.
Whether via exercise, diet, or otherwise, lifestyle intervention is an essential component to the improvement of health and the management of weight. Through these lifestyle modality changes, osteoarthritic symptoms can be improved.
Some more specific examples of lifestyle interventions that help manage arthritic symptoms include strength training, stretching, balance exercises, diet, and stress reduction therapies. Weight loss is one of the most effective treatments due to the decreased stress on the joints that comes with weight reduction.
Several over-the-counter and prescription medications are available for patients suffering from osteoarthritis. Typical examples of these medications include generic pain relievers and arthritic-specific topical creams and ointments.
Specific medications include NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen), corticosteroids (cortisone, prednisone), and opioids. Opioids should be reserved for rare cases and should otherwise be avoided when possible due to the addictive nature of these substances.
As the most invasive of treatment options, surgery is often the last-resort pathway for those suffering from severe osteoarthritic symptoms. The replacement of the damaged joint with a prosthesis is now a more common treatment than in years past.
Such surgery includes not only the removal of part or all of a bone but also the replacement of the bone and joint with a plastic or metal joint prosthesis. These are the most popular types of surgeries for arthritic knees, shoulders, and hips. Many individuals report excellent results with joint replacement surgery; however, the surgical process and recovery can be quite extensive.
Some other alternative treatment and management options available for osteoarthritis include contrast therapy (hot and cold therapy), massage therapy, and physical therapy, among other alternative therapies such as acupuncture.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic, degenerative joint disease that greatly affects the senior population, particularly those over the age of 65. With symptoms ranging from mild to severe, several treatment options are available depending on the individual case.
While osteoarthritis can be an impediment to a senior’s daily life, there are ways to manage the condition and improve quality of life.