Although the elbows are not weight-bearing joints, they are very for the functioning of the upper limbs. Hence, even minor trauma or disease affecting the elbow may cause pain and limit the movements of the upper limbs. Arthritis is one of the common disease conditions affecting the elbow joint.
Arthritis causes inflammation which causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and interference with the use of the arm.
Arthritis can affect all ages but is most commonly seen in people aged over 40 years. The most common cause is wear-and-tear. Apart from that, traumatic injuries, fractures and dislocations make you more susceptible to arthritis.
There are several types of arthritis:
- Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is the most common type of arthritis that affects older people. It causes the cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones in a joint, to wear off causing painful rubbing of bones.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy joints, tissues and organs. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, deformity and loss of function in joints.
- Post-traumatic arthritis develops after an injury to the elbow. The condition may develop years after the trauma such as a fracture, severe sprain, or ligament tears.
- Psoriatic arthritis occurs in some, because of psoriasis, a scaling skin disorder.
Arthritis in the elbow is diagnosed through a thorough history, physical exam, and X-rays.
Treatment can include non-surgical options such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, and activity modification. Surgery is usually considered if nonsurgical treatment fails to give relief. Elbow arthroscopy may be recommended to remove loose fragments of bone and cartilage and to shave down bone spurs limiting motion. Total elbow replacement is usually reserved for low demand, elderly patients with severe arthritis.