Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis In Seniors

Arthritis Herbden's and Bouchard's Nodes

Severe osteoarthritis can bring about Bouchard’s nodes and Heberden’s nodes. Image Credit: Drahreg01, GNU Free Documentation License

Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that arises when a cartilage wears out and the bones in a joint rub together. The impact of osteoarthritis can be seen in an x-ray scan and other imaging scans. It is also the most common type of arthritis affecting seniors. Some of its symptoms is very similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis, another major form of arthritis.

A patient with osteoarthritis may experience extreme discomfort in the joints and other symptoms. The most common among the symptoms of osteoarthritis in seniors is pain in the affected joint. A person with osteoarthritis may also experience difficulty in moving and stiffness, as well as tenderness, in the joints.

Crackling, Grinding Noise

A person with osteoarthritis may also find it hard to do long-range movement. Crepitus, the crackling, grinding noise whenever movement is done, is also a sign of osteoarthritis. The pain of the damaged joint is also accompanied by swelling of the joint or the area around it.


In some cases, osteophytes form in the damaged area. Osteophytes, which are sometimes called “bone spurs,” are protrusions of bones or joints and is a result of a regenerative response of the damaged cartilage.

Osteoarthritis is quite similar to rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune type of arthritis. In both cases, pain in the joints may be experienced with accompanying swelling and stiffness of the joints. However, osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease only and is not as complicated compared to the rheumatoid arthritis which may involve other parts or systems of the body.

Morning Stiffness

Morning stiffness is a common symptom of both types of arthritis. A patient with osteoarthritis and a patient with rheumatoid arthritis may both experience pain and stiffness of the joints during the morning. The difference is that the latter may experience pain longer than the one with osteoarthritis, who will feel pain for only half an hour or less.

Pain develops relatively more rapidly in rheumatoid arthritis as opposed to osteoarthritis, which develops gradually over the years. Osteoarthritis is also experienced commonly by aging people, while rheumatoid arthritis may be acquired by people of any age.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

People with rheumatoid arthritis may also feel pain in their joints symmetrically, meaning they may experience pain in knees, elbows or other joints. With osteoarthritis only the joint with the damaged cartilage aches.

Other symptoms that a patient with rheumatoid arthritis may manifest, include fever and frequent fatigue. This is because in a systemic disease like rheumatoid arthritis, it is the immune system that is involved and other parts of the body may also be affected.

Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a local disease. This means that the only part affected is the damaged joint.

Severe Osteoarthritis

When osteoarthritis becomes severe, cartilage loss may occur. This can cause the joints to become misshaped and result to joint instability. When a joint is unstable, the affected joint may buckle or lock.

The ability to walk, stand and maintain proper posture may be affected by osteoarthritis, especially if the affected parts are those in the hips, knees and spine. This can limit the movement of seniors and affect their sense of balance, resulting in a higher risk of falling. This is why medical alert systems are often used by osteoarthritis patients who either live on their own or spend a lot of time alone at home. Should they fall and need medical attention or some type of help, they can always talk to a trained monitoring specialist.

Arthritis in the hands may also affect manual dexterity. There are two visible signs of arthritis in the hands. These are the Heberden’s nodes and the Bouchard’s nodes (see picture above). The two are similar such that both occur in the joints of the fingers and they both look like bumps in the joints. The difference is that the Heberden’s nodes appear in the joint nearest to the fingernail, while Bouchard’s nodes appear in the middle joint of the fingers.

Osteoarthritis is not an easy condition to live with. Nevertheless, seniors suffering from it may take comfort in the fact that they are not alone in facing the challenge. Many have been able to stand in the face of it and found ways to successfully cope. Here are some tips on Coping With Osteoarthritis For Seniors.

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