Bone & Joint Problems: A Woman’s Weak Link

Bone & Joint Problems: A Woman’s Weak Link

As we grow older, our bones and joints begin to weaken and wear down. Bone mass decreases. Joints become less flexible. Range of motion decreases. No wonder bone and joint problems are one of the main reasons older people become less active. Women are especially vulnerable to diseases that affect the bones and joints. Osteoporosis and arthritis are two of the most common.

Osteoporosis

The word osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Women are four times more likely than men to suffer from the disease, which causes the bones to become so weak they can break doing normal activities. Osteoporosis is more common in women after menopause, when the body stops producing estrogen. The risk of the disease increases with age. Other risk factors include a slim build, family history and lack of weight-bearing exercise such as walking or jogging.

Osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease” because it can develop and cause damage for many years without any symptoms. That makes early detection and treatment vitally important. Fortunately, a bone density test, which measures the amount of calcium and other minerals in a section of bone, is available. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and whether a bone density test is right for you.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for any disease that causes inflammation of the joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, which is more prevalent in women than men. Some of the more common kinds of arthritis include:

– Osteoarthritis

This is the most common form of arthritis, affecting almost 27 million Americans. About 60 percent are women. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage that cushions the joints and the ends of bones wears away. Bone rubs against bone, causing pain, stiffness and loss of movement in the joint. Fortunately, medications have proven very successful in managing osteoarthritis. Talk to your physician if you think you may have this condition.

– Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease. For unknown reasons, the body’s immune system attacks the thin membrane that lines the joints. Fluids build up, causing inflammation and pain. About 1.3 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, and women outnumber men 2.5 to 1. If you are experiencing joint pain and swelling that is not improving
or is getting worse, or your joints feel warm to the touch, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. There is no cure, but medications and lifestyle changes are usually highly effective in slowing the progress of the disease and reducing
its symptoms.

Lupus

More than 90 percent of people diagnosed with lupus are women. With lupus, the body’s immune system attacks tissue and organs, causing inflammation of the joints as well as the skin, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs. In most cases, the cause
of lupus is unknown. Diagnosis of the disease is sometimes difficult. The most obvious sign is a rash, located on the cheeks, shaped like the wings of a butterfly. There is no cure, but medications can be used to control the symptoms.

Joint Replacement Surgery

So what if the pain and lack of mobility caused by severe arthritis do not respond to treatment and start to interfere with the quality of your life? You may want to consider joint replacement surgery. The hip and the knee are the two most commonly replaced joints. Other joints that can be replaced include the fingers, ankles, elbows and shoulder. Joint replacement is a more common procedure than most people realize. For example, more than 750,000 Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year. If you’re tired of living with severe arthritis, talk to your doctor to see if you could benefit from joint replacement surgery.

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