Arthritis is a common medical condition among older people. In the UK the condition is believed to affect around 10 million people. There are different types of arthritis, with around almost nine million people suffering from osteoarthritis.
This article will focus on the symptoms of the two most common forms of arthritis; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Please see our in-depth guide to the condition to learn more about arthritis.
As previously mentioned, osteoarthritis affects almost nine million people in the UK – making it the most common type of the condition. It’s most common in adults who are in their mid-40s or older, with women more likely to be affected. Those with a family history of the condition are also more at risk.
Osteoarthritis can occur as a result or an injury and is also associated with other joint-related problems such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis. It initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint, causing movement to become more difficult than usual.
This leads to the main symptoms of the condition: Pain and stiffness in your joints. The symptoms may come and go in episodes, which will depend on your activity levels. However, in severe cases the joint pain and stiffness can be continuous.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but the most common areas are your knees, hips, and smaller joints in your hand:
- Knees – Both your knees will commonly be affected over time. This may not be the case if it occurs due to an injury or another medical condition affecting only one knee.
- Hips – The pain and stiffness will prevent you from moving your hips joints easily. You’ll also usually have pain in the groin or outside the hip.
- Hand – The three main areas affected are the base of your thumb, the joints closest to your fingertips, and the middle joints of your finger. Alongside the pain and stiffness, your fingers may become swollen.
According to the NHS, you’ll only experience symptoms in one joint or a few joints at any one time. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Your joints appearing slightly larger or more “knobbly” than usual.
- A crackling or grating sound in your joints.
- Limited range of movement.
- Weakness and muscle wasting.
- Joint tenderness.
Of course, if you’re suffering from any of the above you need to go visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people in the UK. The condition often affects those aged between 40 and 50-year-old, and, like osteoarthritis, is most common in women. In fact, women are three times more likely to be affected than men.
With this form of arthritis, the body’s immune system targets the affected joints and leads to the most common symptoms of joint pain, stiffness and swelling. The symptoms usually develop gradually over several weeks, however in some severe cases it can be within a number of days.
Each case of rheumatoid arthritis is different, with symptoms coming and going. It’s common for those affected to suffer from flares, when your condition deteriorates, and your symptoms become more severe.
The joints that are usually affected first are the small joints in the hands and feet. Typically, the condition affects the joints symmetrically, however this isn’t always the case. As mentioned above, the main symptoms are:
- Joint Pain – You’ll have an uncomfortable throbbing and aching pain, which is often worse in the mornings and after any long periods of inactivity.
- Joint Stiffness – Your joints may feel stiff and this will limit movement. Again, any stiffness is worse in the mornings or after a period of inactivity.
- Swelling – The lining of the joints affected will become inflamed, causing them to swell and become hot and tender to touch. In some cases, firm swellings called rheumatoid nodules can also develop under the skin around affected joints.
As with osteoarthritis, there are also several other symptoms to look out for. These are more generic:
- Weight loss.
- A loss of appetite.
- A fever.
- Lack of energy.
- Dry eyes caused by the inflammation.
- Chest pain if your heart or lungs are effected.
People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body. Again, if you’re suffering from any of the above you need to go visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Learn more about Arthritis
If you’re looking to learn more about arthritis, we have an in-depth guide to the condition on our blog. The guide will explain what the condition is, what the potential causes are, and the treatment available. You’ll also find some useful tips on how to cope with the condition on a daily basis.
We also have a guide to the 20 most common medical conditions which affect older people, if you or a loved one has any other health problems.
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