Many older adults have unfortunately been stricken with a lifelong battle with incurable bone and joint diseases. But do they really understand what it’s doing to them?

An X-ray of the bone and joint of knees.
Many Americans receive X-rays of their bones and joints each year.
Photo by Dr. Manuel González Reyes from Pixabay 

Okay. I’m not that old, but I definitely have my fair share of joint pain that drives me crazy! Going from doctor to doctor over the years has not been exactly fun, but I suppose it has given me some insight. There’s something going on with my body.

Seriously, though. My joint pain started in my knee while I was attending high school. As I got older, it continued to progress to other areas in my body. The crazy thing is, my doctors still have no actual diagnosis. They’re just comparing a few of my symptoms to that of typical joint and bone diseases. However, they’re not finding enough in my health information to suggest that I have arthritis.

There are two diseases which I always considered I had: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It totally was not the case.

According to CDC.gov, they will diagnose about 63 million Americans in the US with arthritis in the year 2020, with osteoarthritis affecting over 32.5 million Americans and rheumatoid arthritis affecting over 1.3 million.

Although, it begs the question: how do these two common bone and joint diseases really affect us? Here’s a quick look.

Bone and Joint Diseases: Osteoarthritis

A person with bone or joint pain.
Daily massaging of the joints may help target a bit of the pain.
Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage at the ends of your bones weakens over time, usually affecting hands, knees, hips and the spine. Cartilage is a connective tissue that acts as a cushion, usually in joints at the connection of bones. When it becomes eroded, bone can rub against bone causing pain.

Symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Stiffness
  • Bone spurs
  • Tenderness

Risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Bone or joint injury
  • Occupation
  • Bone deformities
  • Older age
  • Gender
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Genetics

People age 60 and older sometimes develop osteoarthritis. But it can happen in those as young as 20. And though the disease is irreversible, treatment and staying active can help slow down the progression so you can live a happier life.

Bone and Joint Diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis

A man with joint pain in his fingers.
Joint pain can cause swelling in certain areas.
Photo by David Jones on Flickr

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. The immune system attacks the joint linings, mostly affecting both sides of the body, such as knees, hands, and wrists, but can extend to other joint areas. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a systemic disease, which involves targeting major organs and tissues.

Symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint warmth
  • Joint tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Mental stress

Risk factors:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Gender
  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Environment

Rheumatoid arthritis is common in ages 30 through 50, however, it can develop at any age. Though it’s not an easy disease to live with, it’s manageable with the proper treatment and physical therapy.

I may not have these diseases, but it’s interesting to relate to what others go through with all the joint pain that I have. It’s important to understand that Americans can still live and maintain quality of life by taking control of joint pain and staying aware of what’s going on within their bodies so certain problems do not continue to escalate.