The two most common types of arthritis among the elderly are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Though they share some similarities, for example in name, they are actually very different conditions!
What is Osteoarthritis?
This form of arthritis is believed to be caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage that covers the end of every bone leading up to a joint. Cartilage is a firm, rubbery material that provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion. It also acts as a cushion between bones. However, over time, the cartilage that was supposed to help provide smooth motion and cushioning begins to break down. Perhaps that is why the onset of Osteoarthritis, and the prevalence of Osteoarthritis, both centre around old age.
Without cartilage, bones directly come into contact with one another and due to friction between these bones, pain and swelling will occur, along with problems moving the joint. If untreated, bones will begin to break down and form growths called spurs. Bones may break off and float around in a joint. The body’s natural inflammatory process occurs, causing enzyme build up. The enzymes further damage the cartilage. In the last few stages of Osteoarthritis, all of the cartilage is gone, causing bone to grind against bone, resulting in further pain.
The symptoms of Osteoarthritis are fairly obvious to spot. These include:
- Limited range of motion that disappears after initial movement
- Swelling around a joint
- Clicking or cracking noises when moving a joint
There are other illnesses that may arise as a result of Osteoarthritis. Most commonly, if there is Osteoarthritis that affects the movement of the legs, obesity may arise. This is due to the suffering individual being disincentivized to exercise or participate in physical activity.
Osteoarthritis Treatment Options
Osteoarthritis is chronic, and there is no cure presently available. However, Osteoarthritis can be managed through lifestyle changes and treatments:
- Constant Physical Activity
- Weight Management
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs)
- Assistive Devices
To figure out what are the best available treatment options are you, it is recommended that you visit a Rheumatologist as soon as possible.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. To put things simply, it is the body’s immune system inadvertently attacking an individual’s joints, resulting in inflammation. This inflammation causes the synovium(tissue lining the joints) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain. Typically, the function of the synovium is to lubricate joints and to help the joints to move smoothly.
Over time, cartilage within the joints begins to weaken significantly, if Rheumatoid Arthritis is left untreated. Complications begin to arise, including pain and deformity. It is worth noting that joint damage cannot be reversed, which is why upon diagnosis, doctors recommend aggressive treatment options to get the condition into remission.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Spotting Rheumatoid Arthritis is not easy. Some of the symptoms include:
- Joint pain and swelling that lasts for more than 5 weeks
- Stiff fingers that last for half an hour in the morning
- Symmetrical parts of the body are affected(e.g Fingers of the left and right-hand experience swelling)
It is worth noting that the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis can come and go. This is what makes identifying the condition so difficult.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
The goal of Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment is to lessen the impact of inflammation on the body and prevent any irreversible damage that may occur. Consistent management of the disease is the most important as there is no real “cure” for it. Make sure you find someone who is very experienced in dealing with rheumatoid arthritis as it can be extremely painful, especially for older folks. Check out Dr Henry Chan from HC Ortho if you want an affordable yet experienced doctor. His clinic also advises on possible insurance claiming which is very useful too.
Here are the options for Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs)
- JAK inhibitors
It is worth noting that surgery is rarely needed, but is available when there is permanent damage to the joints that result in a great decrease in the quality of life in an individual. However, physicians treating patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis typically aim to prevent the condition from causing severe damage through tight control. By treating the core symptoms of the condition and ensuring that it stays in remission, the advance of the condition can be significantly slowed. Visit a Rheumatologist immediately if you believe you have symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, as only they can decide the best course of rheumatoid arthritis treatment for you.