Arthritis is among the most common medical problems affecting older adults. Characterized by inflammation in one or more joints, arthritis is a degenerative condition that impacts mobility, flexibility and strength.
The most common types of arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) – An age-related arthritis in which the cartilage that cushions joint endings and facilitates movement wears away over time.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – An autoimmune disorder that causes painful joint inflammation, sometimes along with organ damage.
- Psoriatic arthritis – A disease typically seen in people with psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that affects the skin.
The most common cause of arthritis is growing older. Osteoarthritis in particular is often a natural and completely normal part of aging—many adults over age 50 have OA to some extent. The causes of rheumatoid arthritis differ slightly, as RA is an autoimmune disease that appears to have a genetic component.
Generally speaking, arthritis is more likely to affect people who:
- Are older than 50
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a family history of arthritis
- Have sustained a joint injury
There are more than 100 forms of arthritis and symptoms are largely the same across all of them, including having some measure of pain, stiffness or swelling in one or more joints. People with rheumatoid arthritis may also experience fatigue, fever and loss of appetite.
It’s a good idea to consult with a physician if you are experiencing possible symptoms of arthritis. While this condition cannot be reversed, treatment can help you control symptoms, improve your mobility and preserve your joint health.
Taking an X-ray of the joint (or joints) in question is usually the first step of diagnosing arthritis. An X-ray image can show if the joint is damaged, and if so, to what extent. A physician may also look for other possible indicators of arthritis, such as muscle weakness and joint tenderness.
Tampa General Hospital’s Orthopedic Institute is home to joint health experts who specialize in treating all types of arthritis. For many patients with arthritis, treatment involves managing symptoms through a combination of medication, physical therapy and healthy lifestyle choices. Surgery to replace an arthritic joint (arthroplasty) may be a viable option in advanced cases that do not improve with conservative treatments. Many people are candidates for minimally invasive robotic procedures, which require smaller incisions and less disruption to surrounding tissues compared to traditional replacement surgeries, allowing for a faster recovery.