What is Arthritis? Focus on Seniors

There is a general tendency to think of arthritis as a condition of old age. But is it? So, what is arthritis? It is a condition where the joint of a person or animal such as the knee, elbow, fingers becomes damaged causing difficulty and pain with movement.

Arthritis can however affect anyone of any age, gender, or race and surprisingly even babies as young as age six months can develop an arthritic condition although It is generally more common in older people.

This article reviews some common forms of arthritis in seniors.

Arthritis 101

Cause

The word arthritis is derived from two root terms “arth” (bone) and “itis” (inflammation of). Arthritis therefore means inflammation of bone joints. It causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.

What is Arthritis
Stiffness in the Knees

A joint is a space between two bones, usually filled with a shock absorber-like layer of cartilage and connective tissue which allows for flexibility and ease of joint movement.

As many people age, the cartilage layer can become thin and frayed over time due to “wear and tear”. This is understandable because bone movement grinding over the cartilage layer has been going on continuously since birth.

Consequently, the joints may start to feel stiff because the “shock absorber” layer of cartilage and connective tissue become thinner and thinner making movement more difficult and uncomfortable.

What is Arthritis? The Onset

Further progression of this thinning may now cause the bones to start to rub against each other, This can cause considerable and sometimes excruciating pain.

Many seniors may begin to experience early signs of arthritis somewhere between age 50 and 60 which is why arthritis is often associated with aging.

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis. The four most common kinds encountered in seniors and the elderly are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and psoriatic arthritis.

Now that you have a basic understanding of arthritis, continue reading BUT, make an appointment with your doctor or healthcare professional if you have any persistent discomfort and swelling in your joints.

Osteoarthritis

This is the most common type of arthritis. It is localized and characterized by joint pain in the commonly used weight-bearing areas of the body such as your hips, knees, feet, and spine. While it can also affect the joints of your fingers and thumb and the joint at the base of your big toe, this condition is usually related to the natural “wear and tear” on the joints over time more common in older adults.

The “wear and tear” motion causes a thinning of the cushioning cartilage between the bones and can result in inflammation, discomfort, and pain. Specialized orthotics, osteoarthritis shoes, or custom orthopedic shoes can however provide some relief.

Generally, osteoarthritis does not affect children, but it can develop at any age following sports injuries and broken bones.

What is Arthritis
Obeisity and Osteoarthritis

What is Arthritis? – Risks for Osteoarthritis

Risk factors for osteoarthritis are age, sex, obesity, smoking, trauma and genetics. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, although the pain can be effectively managed through the use of knee braces, memory foam osteoarthritis shoes, use of foot massagers and joint supplements.

Genetics and Weight play a key role.

Weight

Obesity is widely acknowledged as a risk factor for both occurrence and progression of osteoarthritis. Losing at least 10 % of body weight, along with exercise, is recognized as a cornerstone in the management of obese patients with osteoarthritis.. This scan significantly improve symptoms, pain relief, physical function and health-related quality of life.

If you are obese, the extra weight can stress your joints and create arthritis pain. A good healthy weight, exercising and eating right help manage the condition (Bliddal et al 2014).

Genetics

This plays an important role in the development of arthritis. Unfortunately, since these were the genes you inherited from your mother and father, there is nothing you can do to change this! However, a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of arthritic conditions in your body before it develops. You probably wish you knew this a while back, nevertheless, a healthy lifestyle does wonders at any age!

Women are more at risk than men for getting different kinds of arthritis pain, probably because of the physiological changes they experience.

African Americans are more likely to develop lupus (a form of arthritis) while Caucasians have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Lupus is two to three times more prevalent among women of color—African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders—than among Caucasian women.

A Lupus Foundation of America funded study found that overall, lupus was among the top 20 leading causes of death in females ages 5-64 ((National Resource Center on Lupus 2016). 

Common Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

  • Inability to move a joint the normal way
  • Joint pain or tenderness that is constant or that comes and goes
  • Unexplainable weakness and joint pain – You just don’t feel right
  • Morning stiffness lasting 30 minutes or less

Managing Osteoarthritis

Although there are lots of products in the market for managing arthritis – joint wraps, foot wraps, specialized shoes and braces, however, not all gel packs and braces are of similar quality and durability.

I have tried some of them and find that cheap is not always the best, neither is super expensive! Comfort and durability should be the criteria used to select a product that is affordable, suits your budget, and that will not fall apart or slacken after a few uses. Some of the more popular products are identified here.

Comfort Products

To give you an idea of some of these arthritis comfort product wraps for the joint, foot and neck CHECK the images below for more details and prices:

  • MediBeads Arthritis Joint Wrap
  • Description:The MediBeads Arthritis Joint Wrap is an easy to pull on soft sleeve designed to provide relief to sore knees, ankles and elbows. Designed to work without restricting movement, the wrap can be worn while doing range of motion exercises or while relaxing.
  • Price: $21.95
  • MediBeads Arthritis Foot Wraps
  • Description:The MediBeads Arthritis Foot Wraps are designed to provide hot or cold therapy to tired, aching ankles and feet. Users with painful arthritic feet will find these foot wraps easy to apply for pain relief. The MediBeads Foot Wraps include a pair of easy to
  • Price: $44.95
  • MediBeads Arthritis Neck Rest
  • Description:The MediBeads Arthritis Neck Rest distributes moist heat evenly to neck and shoulder muscles. Users with arthritis will find the flexible design allows easy application of soothing moist heat to the upper shoulders and neck muscles. The MediBeads Arthriti
  • Price: $20.95
  • MediBeads Arthritis Therapy Wrap
  • Description:The MediBeads Arthritis Therapy Wrap ties around the back, abdomen, hips or shoulders. Users with arthritis will find this wrap ideal for applying moist heat therapy to painful arthritic joints for soothing pain relief. The MediBeads Arthritis Therapy Wra
  • Price: $21.95

Joint Supplements

There are several joint supplements (refer to a previous article "The Causes of Osteoporosis. Am I A High Risk?") in the market, many of which claim to be the ultimate solution to joint pain. Several of them do not work efficiently for a variety of reasons. Some contain cheap synthetic fillers to cut costs so their manufacturer can market cheaper products.

On a cautionary note, it is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before embarking on the use of supplements as they may suggest that you initially start with pain relievers.

Before researching for this article, a survey of a cross-section of senior citizens found that many brands of joint supplements did not meet the manufacturer claims. Surprisingly, some of these same seniors however claimed to find some relief from what other seniors in the survey had called "ineffective brands".

Potential Reasons Why Joint Supplements May be Ineffective

The question is Why? Consumer Health (2020) and Arnow (2012) provide some scientific insight which are summarized below:

(a). Joint supplements usually contain most - if not all the following essential ingredients - Glucosamine, Chondroitin sulfate, Boswellia Extract, Turmeric, Bromelain, Quercetin, Methionine and MSM

(b). Before purchasing a product, check to see that it does not have binders, fillers and artificial colors.

(c). Check the manufacturers guarantee. A 90-day stress free money back guarantee - at the minimum shows some level of the integrity of the product

(d). Additional research also revealed that Vitamins C & D, Omega 3 Fish oil and CMO - a natural fatty acid are beneficial for joint health. We will explore this further in a future article.

(e). This final bullet point IS JUST MY THOUGHT. Perhaps the degree of inflammation and severity of the cartilage damage in the joint occurring in different individuals may also be contributing factors.

What is Arthritis? - Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA called Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease typified by a chronic inflammatory disorder. It is called the "confused immune" effect because the body attacks its own body tissue and the condition can appear anywhere over the body. This can also develop across a very wide spectrum of individuals - babies, older children, menopausal women, seniors, and the elderly.

The condition tends to affect the smaller joints first in the early stages - especially the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet. As it progresses, symptoms commonly affect the hands, wrists, ankles, shoulders, and knees.

It affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. Symptoms can be gradual or appear suddenly. Note, symptoms can differ in severity and can come ("flare") and go ("remission"). Some people also experience lumps on the skin called rheumatoid nodules.

Care Products

The care products shown below include compression and easy grip gloves which provide relief to stiff hands and fingers.

  • IMAK Active Gloves Pair
  • Description:The IMAK Active Gloves Pair are mild compression gloves for arthritic hands. The anti-slip design on the fingers and palm provide users better grip. IMAK Active Gloves help people with arthritis with activities like driving, golf and knitting. These comfo
  • Price: $23.99
  • Gripeeze DIY & Garden Glove with Strap Left Hand
  • Description:The Gripeeze DIY & Garden Glove with Strap Left Hand provides support for an arthritic hand and helps makes gripping easier. The unique strapping system is designed to increase grip while relieving pressure from the hand when doing household activities an
  • Price: $29.95
  • Actimove Premium Arthritis Care Gloves
  • Description:The Actimove Premium Arthritis Care Gloves are light compression gloves that provide therapeutic warmth to reduce hand pain and swelling due to arthritis. These comfortable gloves retain body heat for warmth to relieve aching wrists, fingers and hands. Ac
  • Price: $29.95
  • Thermoskins Arthritis Gloves
  • Description:Clinically tested Thermoskins® Arthritic Gloves provide compression while helping to control swelling and aiding in the stability of hands and fingers. These therapeutic gloves are made from elasticized fabrics specifically designed to provide even com
  • Price: $26.95

Risk

People with RA are also at a higher risk for developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The conditoin can begin at any age, but the likelihood increases with age. The onset of RA is highest among adults in their 60s, and new cases of RA are typically 50-60% higher in women than men (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 2020).

There is no known cause for rheumatoid arthritis and the swelling and inflammation can damage a wide range of organs - skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels (AOTC 2017), and because the condition is systemic, it usually develops along with a high fever and rashes.

The strange thing about rheumatoid arthritis is that between 40-50% of people affected also experience signs and symptoms that do not involve the joints.

These include the eyes, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, bone marrow, lungs, skin, nerve tissues and blood vessels (Mayo Clinic 2019, Pietrangelo 2020).

Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Fatigue
  • Fever and loss of appetite.
  • Early morning stiffness in the joints or following periods of inactivity
  • Swollen joints that feel tender to the touch
  • Decrease in the range of motion
  • Numbness and tingling due to pressure on the nerves
  • Squeaking of the joints (Petriangelo 2020)

You can do some simple home stretches to strengthen creaky joints. Try out these exercises to prevent arthritis pain.

What is Arthritis? - Gout

It is defined in Wikipedia as a form of inflammatory arthritis that causes recurring attacks of a red, tender, hot, and swollen joint. In most cases, it affects the joint at the base of the big toe. An attack of gout can come on quite suddenly, with the throbbing pain quickly reaching maximal intensity in less than 12 hours.

Older males are more commonly affected. Gout occurs more commonly in those who regularly drink beer, sugar-sweetened beverages or who eat foods such as shellfish, anchovies or liver (all high in purines), or who are overweight.

It affects about 1 to 2% of the Western population at some point in their lives.

What is Arthritis
Psoriasis

What is Arthritis? - Psoriatic Arthritis

The risk factors for psoriatic arthritis include sufferers of psoriasis, an age range between 30 - 50 years and an inherited genetic pre-disposition (Mayo Clinic 2019)

Psoriatic arthritis occurs when people with psoriasis have inflammation of the joints and the skin. The condition presents as patches of red or white areas of inflamed skin, typically around the elbows, knees and scalp, although there may be a wide variety of additional symptoms.

Its cause is believed to be due to an autoimmune condition, and as occurs in rheumatoid arthritis, the body mistakenly attacks healthy joints causing inflammation, discomfort and pain.

Final Words on What is Arthritis?

This article addresses the question "What is arthritis?" and focuses primarily on how it may affect seniors. Arthritis presents difficulties for sufferers and affects the quality of life. Many forms affect the feet and make walking painful. Fortunately, aside from prescription medication, there are a wide range of extra wide and extra deep shoes, socks, orthotics and other products that can provide relief with managing arthritis. These products are reviewed in upcoming articles.

Would you like to be one of the first to know when these articles are released? If your answer is "Yes", kindly subscribe to our Newsletter - "Senior Confidential" to become an Insider.

Are there any other specific things to note about arthritis which were not mentioned in this article? Let us know by leaving your comments in the comments box below.

Remember to make an appointment with your doctor or healthcare professional if you have any persistent discomfort and swelling in any of your joints.

If you liked this article, consider leaving a comment.

Related Articles

The Thyroid and Autoimmune Disease. Helpful Facts

Why is Arthritis Painful? How to Know Different Skin Types

Arthritis and Insomnia. A Sure Recipe for Senior Falls

References

  1. Gout (2020) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gout
  2. Preventing Arthritis Pain (2020) https://www.tylenol.ca/symptoms/adult/arthritis/preventing-arthritis-pain
  3. Arthritis Osteoporosis Treatment Centre AOTC (2017) Causes of Three Common Types of Arthritis https://arthritisjax.com/blog/category/arthritis/
  4. Bliddal et al (2014) Osteoarthritis, obesity and weight loss: evidence, hypotheses and horizons – a scoping review Obes Rev. 15(7): 578–586
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4238740/#:~:text=Weight loss can prevent the onset of osteoarthritis, relieve, loss reduces the risk for OA in women
  5. Pietrangelo, A (2020) Early Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis https://www.healthline.com/health/early-signs-rheumatoid-arthritis
  6. Mayo Clinic (2019) Rheumatoid Arthritis https://www.healthline.com/health/early-signs-rheumatoid-arthritis
  7. Consumer Health (2020) Joint Supplements: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects and Scams. https://consumershealth.org/joint-supplements-guide/
  8. Yen E, & Singh R (2018) Brief Report: Lupus-An Unrecognized Leading Cause of Death in Young Females: A Population-Based Study Using Nationwide Death Certificates, 2000-2015. Arthritis & Rheumatology. 70(8):1251-1255.
  9. National Resource Center on Lupus (2016) Lupus Facts and Statistics. Who does it affect? https://www.lupus.org/resources/lupus-facts-and-statistics

10 thoughts on “What is Arthritis? Focus on Seniors”

  1. Thanks for this informative article Cici. It is good to understand these changes that may occur as we age. I currently do not suffer from any form of arthritis but am definitely concerned that genetics may increase my chances. I remember the deformity of my grandmother’s fingers and toes and the pain she was in at times, especially when the weather was poor. My father also suffered from periods of gout and that caused him excruciating pain. Yes, I have had several broken bones throughout the years so I am definitely concerned. I currently am quite active. I run daily, participate in yoga, Pilates, and Jui Jitsu, and my husband and I enjoy sailing our 26′ sailboat(we are the crew) and hiking adventures. I would be devastated if I couldn’t continue exploring this great planet. What can I do now (age 55) to help prevent developing arthritis in the future?

    Reply
    • Hi Deb,
      You are already doing all the right things to keep arthritis at bay as you are leading an active lifestyle. Taking recommended doses of Ca, Vitamin D, Vitamin C. Omega 3 Fish oil and CMO as stated in the article are also helpful

      Reply
  2. As a senior, well over 55, I have some pain of arthritis from a broken bone in my foot. It was suggested that I take Tumeric daily to help with pain and swelling for arthritis that would develop around the metal and hardware used to put my foot back together.
    It has been three years and it seems to have helped as I can do most things except to run without a lot of pain.
    Taking a supplement is a great way to keep the pain and swelling of arthritis at bay. I see that Tumeric is in some of the things that you recommend, is it better to get a supplement or just the Tumeric that I take now?
    John

    Reply
    • Hi John,
      Taking fresh (or powdered) turmeric daily is very beneficial for arthritic inflammation and pain. I take this myself, but bear in mind that some preparation of fresh turmeric is necessary. Some folks don’t like to do the prep work, plus having the turmeric stain everything it comes in contact with. Supplements on the other hand are loved for the ready availability and exact dose – just pop the pill in your mouth and swallow with water. Furthermore, they are easy to take on vacation with you.

      Reply
  3. Hi Ceci,
    Your article about arthritis is very informative. We only hear older people could get it, and I was shocked to learn that children could be affected too, causing permanent damage to the affected joint or joints.
    My friend, who was quite active, just recently told me about her struggle with this disease. And she was looking for some factors which caused it. In your article, you said it could be weight or genetics. She’ has some changes and feels a little bit better. I looked at the product you have recommended, “Turmeric Curcumin with Bioperine”. There are quite good reviews about this product. I will pass this information on to my friend.
    What can we do to prevent arthritis? Have you got any information? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Preventative measures for arthritis include leading an active lifestyle, taking recommended doses of Ca, Vitamin D, Vitamin C. Omega 3 Fish oil and CMO as stated in the article are also helpful

      Reply
  4. Hi Ceci,

    This was very well explained. It is the first time that I actually begin to understand more about arthritis. I did not know that it could also affect younger ages, although I knew of some cases where young people had arthritis. I always related it to a senior condition. I also didn’t know that there were different types of arthritis.
    I know someone who has gout and like you described in this article, he sometimes gets sudden, intense pain. I am sure that he doesn’t know what foods should be prevented. Will it make a difference for him if he stops eating the foods that you mentioned, even if he has had gout for years?
    I’m also wondering why women of color are more prone to getting lupus. Do you know why this might be?

    Reply
    • Hello Christine,
      Quite honestly, I can only imagine that if your friend who has had gout for so many years stops eating some of the recommended foods, he should have some relief. Consult with a doctor though.

      Genetics and hormones are the reason why women of color are more prone to getting lupus.
      Ceci

      Reply
  5. Excellent article as I’ have been in health and fitness my whole life but never spent a lot of time learning about arthritis. I actually had no idea about how many types of arthritis there is!
    I’m beginning to focus on more health related items outside of just exercise and diet and I’m glad to have found your article. It’s not surprising that obesity is a contributor to arthritis but I wasn’t aware of how major of an impact genetics plays.

    Reply
    • There is always something to learn about about changes in the body as we age. Better to learn about them early on and find out how we can improve our quality of living even as these changes happen.
      Ceci

      Reply

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