Arthritis is the most common disease affecting older people, with over a third of those over the age of 70 having the condition. There are several forms of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis. While the joints are subject to a certain amount of wear and tear over the life span, osteoarthritis, which most often affects the knee and hip joints, occurs when there is damage to the joints, which the body is unable to repair. The bone, cartilage – the protective surface within the joints, which allows them to move more smoothly – tendons and ligaments may all be involved.
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Inflammation of the joints occurs, they can swell and bony lumps can form. Joints become painful, stiff and more difficult to move. Simple activities such as climbing stairs become problematic.
Osteoarthritis is more likely if a joint has previously been damaged through an injury, operation or another joint disease. Anyone who is overweight also increases their risk of developing this form of arthritis, as the extra weight carried puts a strain on the joints, particularly the knees and hips which bear a lot of our weight. There may also be a genetic component to osteoarthritis, as it can run in families.
While there is no cure for arthritis, the symptoms can be managed through the aid of medications and simple lifestyle steps – losing weight if you are overweight and taking regular exercise are both recommended. Although activity might be painful, it is actually the best thing that anyone with arthritis can do, as exercise helps to strengthen the muscles, which in turn strengthens the joints.