What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and its surrounding tissues. A joint is a point where two bones are joined by cartilage and other soft tissues. Arthritis can be acute and short-term or chronic and long-term. It is caused by autoimmune disorders, trauma to the joints (like injuries), genetics and other environmental factors.
Arthritis leads to the wearing down of joints as the cartilage tissue degenerates. It can be extremely painful and results in limiting movement, loss of function, joint deformity and even disability in some cases. It can affect any joint in the body. The most commonly affected joints are wrist, shoulders, elbow, hips, knees and ankles.
At What Age Do You Get Arthritis?
Arthritis commonly affects the elderly and frequently occurs in post-menopausal women. However, it should be noted that younger people show signs and symptoms of early arthritis. The type of arthritis one may get also depends on one’s age. Age also matters when it comes to the type of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis resulting from traumatic joint injuries, infections and extreme use of the joint. It usually affects the larger weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. Osteoarthritis is painful and can result in joint deformity. Though it is seen in older people, it can affect younger people who have sustained traumatic joint injuries or sudden infection and inflammation of joint fluids. These are the two main factors why young people – between the age of 20-40 – get osteoarthritis.
Genetic inheritance patterns also have a major role in younger people with osteoarthritis. The exact mechanism of gene activation for osteoarthritis is not yet known.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by autoimmune factors. In an autoimmune disorder, the body starts producing antibodies that attack the body’s tissues and joints. The exact cause of this is still unknown. In people with rheumatoid arthritis, antibodies attack the tissues that surround the synovial joints causing painful inflammation, degeneration of tissues and ultimately, damage to the joints and bones.
Rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age as it is an autoimmune disorder. Rheumatoid arthritis is also associated with other chronic disorders like chronic anemia, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders and some other rare diseases. The National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Maryland, clarifies that, though rheumatoid arthritis occurs in mostly older people beginning around middle age, it can occur even among children and young adults. The etiology of this occurrence among children and younger people is still unknown.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) affects children and occurs as a cluster of chronic joint pains and inflammation. JIA is a chronic condition and most children affected also require treatment even as they grow into adults. JIA’s severity depends on the individual’s overall health condition and range between mild and moderate pains to more severe pains accompanied by fever and even inflammation of the eyes (uveitis).
JIA is usually diagnosed in children younger than 16 years of age with persistent joint pain and other symptoms like fever and fatigue for more than six months. With treatment, the symptoms usually subside, but can recur at any time. The best methodology for treatment is usually pain and inflammation management with a regimen of joint exercises and diet that keeps down inflammatory triggers. As the name suggests, JIA is idiopathic, which means, unknown origin.
Given our exposure to environmental pollution, mental stress and sedentary lifestyles, arthritis can strike at any age. Young people who work long hours at the computer are in the high-risk category. Similarly, those who perform repetitive movements for long hours (like people who work with machines or stand for long hours) are at a greater risk. The risk of arthritis can be managed by staying fit and active and including a range of whole-body exercises to keep the joints supple.