Aging and rheumatism 4.87/5 (30)

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Aging and rheumatic ailments
Aging causes rheumatic ailments, but these are distinguished from rheumatic disease.

Aging and age-related rheumatic symptoms

Becoming older (aging) is a normal process that involves many physical changes. One becomes stiffer, and one moves less smoothly. Posture is affected. The symptoms can be normal aging which is due to gradual changes in several parts of the body at the same time. These symptoms must be distinguished from rheumatic disease. Older age causes rheumatic ailments with stiffness, pain and weakness in the joints, muscles and tendons without necessarily showing signs of disease.

Definition of «older people«

The definition of older people varies, but are often people over 65 years of age. Some define people 60-74 years as "younger old", 75-85 years as "old" and over 85 years as "oldest". However, the definition depends on which population is considered, of which life expectancy is important. In parts of Africa, the UN has designated people over the age of 55 as older. Life expectancy in several of the countries there is as low as 40-58 years. Aging is a natural process that causes rheumatic symptoms, but is distinguished from rheumatic disease.

Aging takes place at the cellular level in millions of cells throughout the body and causes changes in the muscles, tendons, and skeleton described below. Other signs of aging are decreased hearing and vision, slower heart rate, higher blood pressure and less mental adaptability.

Aging and rheumatic pain
Age-related symptoms can be counteracted with regular physical activity. Photo: Vikne E, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Stiffness and weaker muscles often noticed from the age of 50, but begins in the small several years earlier.

Normal aging is distinguished from pain conditions that may result from previous injuries and disease in the neck, back, muscles, joints, tendons or nerves. In some cases, no specific cause of pain is detected. Among people aged 50-59 years, one in three has more or less chronic pain that affects the quality of life.

The spine changes shape with age, and we get lower.

The spine consists of 33 vertebrae. These are kept apart by intervertebral discs which consists of a shock-absorbing, gel-like mass surrounded by a capsule. With age, each intervertebral disc loses fluid and shrinks slightly. The spine thus becomes a little lower and less mobile. The vertebrae also become a little lower when they lose calcium over the years, especially in the anterior part and most commonly among women. The result is that the body height becomes smaller, the spine somewhat stiffer. The slightly forward, normal curvature of the thoracic spine increases.

The spine changes and may cause age-related symptoms

With age, lime is formed in the form of beak-shaped osteophytes or taps between the vortices. They can occur in areas with irritation, friction and small inflammation or without an obvious cause. The purpose of these calcifications is probably to stabilize irritated areas, but the result is a less mobile back.

The vertebra are bound together by side joints (facet). These are as other joints covered by cartilage. Over the years, the cartilage is damaged and replaced with uneven calcifications. Osteoarthritis causes stiffness and can be painful by stress and movement. Age changes in the back thus result in reduced body height, stiffness and changes of the posture.

Joints and articular cartilage. The skeleton is the frame on which the body leans on. Joints form connections between the parts of the skeleton. The surface of the joints is covered by a soft and flexible layer of cartilage. Joint fluid is tough and smooth, not unlike oil. It should reduce friction and help nourish the cartilage. With age or after an injury, the articular cartilage will partially disappear and be replaced by lime and a hard, uneven joint surface. It occurs osteoarthritis (arthritis) which bothers 10-20% from the age of 60 and is detected in approximately 50% of all 65-year-olds.

Joint fluid loses some of its effect. Hip and knee joints, which mean a lot to the movements when we move, are among the most common affected joints. Soft movements turn into stiffness and effortless walking and running become painful. A tendency to bent knees and hips affects posture. Fingers outermost joints (DIP joints)the inner joints of the thumbs (CMC-1 joint, almost at the wrist) and big toe's largest joint (MTP-1) is also among joints affected by osteoarthritis. Hand function and gait are affected

The feet. Even the many small joints inside the foot (foot root) and tendons change. The feets archs become flatter, resulting in stiffer walking, poorer balance and slightly lower body height.

The skeleton. Women in particular lose a lot of the calcium content in the skeleton with age and it can occur osteoporosis. This is not noticed until the weakness results in a fracture of the skeleton. If several of the vertebrae of the spine are affected (compression fractures), the upper body will be markedly shortened. Often, there is also an inclined attitude because the front part of the swirl collapses most.

tendons og slime bags can store lime, often in the shoulders. This can trigger severe pain and contribute to reduced movement. Joints and tendons thus change over the years so that our range of motion becomes smaller and partly painful

Age changes in hands cause less muscles, thicker joints and thinner skin

Musculature makes us move and provides strength. Although exercise helps, the body with increasing age will gradually replace muscle tissue with adipose tissue and collagen which is harder connective tissue.

A tendency of such decline in muscle mass (muscle atrophy) detected from 50 years of age. The muscle mass decreases by 1,5% annually between 50 and 60 years, then by approx. 3% every year. The changes are most easily visible on hands. The decline of the many small muscles causes the hands to be often slender and tendonous in older people.

They respond quickly muscle fibers (muscle fiber type II) is gradually replaced with a slower type (muscle fiber type I). It is also well known that training takes much longer with increasing age.

Nervous system and age

The muscles receive continuous signals from nervous System. This consists of nerves for arms, legs and CNS in the brain and spine which also includes the balance organ. Thus, balance and coordination are maintained.

The nervous system also weakens with age, so that the muscles do not receive signals as before. Stiffness, tremors, twitching or reduced muscle power can occur without a particular illness. The nervous system must play its part in order for agile and rapid reactions to be affected by age.

The eye and sight affect the balance with aging

The need for reading glasses is a well-known phenomenon from the age of 40-50, and is due to the lenses getting stiffer with age. Cataracts og retina (retina) changes affects our vision in backlight (glare) and dusk (night vision), respectively. All in all, reduced vision makes the hallway more searching and cautious.

Prevention and treatment of age-related symptoms

Research on cells and genes will lead to opportunities to stop the aging process, but practical results are still far in the future. However, reducing the aging process is completely possible for everyone.

You can prevent the body from shrinking, the muscles weakening and the joints becoming painful.

Physical activity becomes more important with age

Many become more comfortable and reduce physical activity with age, which is detrimental to health.

Regular activity and stretches for mobility counteract rigidity. Physical mobility and exercise increase nutrient supply to the cartilage and can counteract cartilage damage and osteoarthritis.

A strong muscle stabilizes the joints and improves walking function. In fact, conscious activity and exercise become more important the older one is. Anyone can help maintain a good posture when exercising, exercising and exercising muscle strength in the back, abdomen, shoulders and legs. Two points are particularly important then:

  1. Start the activity and the training tailored to the physical level you are on. The higher the age, the longer it takes to build up
  2. Well-being is crucial to continuing over time. Some train in social communities and groups, while others enjoy the silence along the way in nature or have a focused exercise program. Choose what suits you best

Proteins, vitamins and minerals

Many older people eat too little or consume too much sweets that contain a lot of sugar (carbohydrates) and little or no proteins which are important building blocks in the muscles.

Conscious consumption of meat, dairy products, fish is important. To avoid shortages Vitamin D fish, tran and sun are important. Other vitamins and minerals are obtained through a regular diet. If there is a suspicion of deficiency conditions, blood tests can reveal whether a supplement is needed

Diseases that cause joint and muscle pain in old age

Rheumatic disease among the elderly

Complicating factors among the elderly are an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney failure, cancer and infections. Multiple diseases at the same time (comorbidity) often lead to several drugs that can affect the anti-rheumatic treatment. Age changes also generally affect the treatment's response to the immune system and how quickly drugs are excreted by the body. There is therefore a need for special attention in the treatment and follow-up of elderly people with rheumatic disease.


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