Aging and Arthritis

By: Jody Smith

Arthritis means "inflamed joint", according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. It occurs when the normally smoothly fitting bones covered with cartilage don't fit so smoothly.

Arthritis, a form of joint inflammation, affects 80 percent of people over the age of 55, according to Dr. Gunnar Kraag, past president of the Canadian Rheumatology Association and professor at the University of Ottawa Medical School. The majority of people over the age of 65, around 97 percent, have arthritis.

Women over the age of 60 are more prone to arthritis than men of the same age. It is speculated that this may be due to estrogen changes after menopause.

Menopause is a game changer in many ways. Not least of these changes in the game involve loss of bone density, according to an article on Nlm.nih.gov.

The fluid that lubricates the joints diminishes and cartilage loses its buffer, and erodes due to a new friction. Calcification, or mineral deposits in joints begins to occur, for instance in the shoulders.

Joints lose flexibility. Cartilage decreases, for instance in knee and hip joints. Finger joints may suffer a loss of cartilage as well as a thickening of the bones.

Arthritis can be a result of the changes in joints due to aging. With arthritis comes pain, inflammation and stiffness. In more extreme cases, deformity can occur.

Arthritis can cause a variety of irregularities that cause joint pain and stiffness, and joint tenderness, and affects the ability to move freely.

Bony swelling, or bony nodules emerge, for instance at the middle and end joints of the fingers.

Gel phenomenon is stiffness that arises when you haven't been moving for awhile, that eases gradually after movement begins again.

Crepitus is a cracking, grating or popping can be heard when affected joints are moving.

If you've had an injury in the past, it may hasten the appearance of arthritis. Genetics can also be a factor.

Frostbite, stress on a particular body area due to repetitive movement, and joint fracture can trigger this type of effect. After-effects of surgery can contribute to the development of arthritis.

Kraag advocated lifestyle changes, such as instituting regular moderate exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.

An article on Enn.com said that of the more than 100 different kinds of arthritis, with osteoarthritis being the most common. Osteoarthritis is often a consequence of age, joint infection or joint trauma. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are also common.

The Enn.com article concurred with Kraag that exercise can make a difference, citing research from Duke University Medical Center.

It can decrease stiffness and pain in the joints. It can protect and support joints as muscles become stronger. Exercise can also restore flexibility to previously stiff joints as it also reduces inflammation.

Sources:

Aging changes in the bones - muscles - joints

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004015.htm

Arthritis affects 80 per cent of people over 55

http://www.seniorsdaily.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1696&Itemid=36

Arthritis: Osteoarthritis

http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/ArthritisOsteoarthritis.aspx

Exercise and Arthritis. Enn.com.

http://www.enn.com/health/article/43334

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