About the disease
Shoulder arthritis is a condition whereby cartilage of the shoulder becomes worn out and its bones start to rub against each other, causing pain. As a result, the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and stiff, leading to loss in maneuverability. The most common types of shoulder arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis causes the protective space that is created by the cartilage to become frayed and rough. This type of shoulder arthritis is more common in people who are over 60. Human cartilage has the tendency to lose its elasticity over time, which is why almost 70% of older people experience shoulder pain, ranging from mild to severe.
Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than osteoarthritis. It is an autoimmune disease, whereby joint linings become attacked by the patient’s immune system. As a result, the sufferer experiences erosion of the shoulder bones, which can lead to shoulder deformity over time.
People who have had sport traumas or have injured their shoulder in an accident can develop post-traumatic arthritis. With this type of arthritis, fluid builds up in the shoulder, causing it to swell and change in form.
A rarer type of arthritis, which can develop as a result of excessive consumption of alcohol, drugs and steroids, is called avascular necrosis. Blood is not able to reach the shoulder and causes bone atrophy.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, in 2011 more than 50 million people were diagnosed with shoulder arthritis in the USA alone.
- Stiffness in the upper part of the arm
- Inability to move shoulder freely
- Weight loss
- Lumps under the skin, known as rheumatoid nodules, which are common only in rheumatoid arthritis.
- During a general examination, the doctor will ask you about your symptoms and rotate your shoulder in different directions to see where the pain is coming from.
- An X-ray of the shoulder is used to create an image of the shoulder joints and can be used to determine whether there is damage in the rotator cuff or the cartilage.
- A CT or MRI scan may be used to get more precise images of the shoulder if the patient has a rare type of shoulder arthritis. They are also used when someone has been in an accident or has had a sport trauma.
- Arthroscopy is a surgery whereby an arthroscope (a special endoscopic device) is inserted into the shoulder to repair damaged tissue in the shoulder joints and improve cartilage function. Such a procedure can also be used to repair the rotator cuff and make the shoulder stable. This type of surgery is recommended for rheumatoid arthritis as well as osteoarthritis because it can alleviate inflammation, which is what causes the pain.
- Shoulder joint replacement is another effective surgery. The damaged shoulder joint is removed and is replaced with a prosthetic. This surgery is recommended if the shoulder cartilage is completely damaged and cannot be repaired by arthroscopy or if some of the bone was torn off through injury.
Overall, shoulder arthritis surgery has good results and you should be able to make a full recovery within a matter of weeks after receiving treatment.