Shoulder Arthritis

Understand shoulder arthritis

Arthritis is a disease involving damage to the joints and their surrounding tissues. Hundreds of forms of arthritis exist and they produce different symptoms with different causes, but they all have a focus on the same types of tissues. Arthritis (general) can affect any joint in the body, but some joints are naturally prone to greater damage from arthritis than others.

The weight-bearing joints, especially the shoulders, are known for being prone to arthritic damage. Fortunately, there are plenty of treatments and the prognosis is quite good for the majority of patients who suffer from this condition.

How arthritis affects the shoulder

Arthritis in the shoulder typically takes the form of osteoarthritis due to wear and tear. As we use our shoulders to lift heavy objects and perform the tasks we do on a daily basis, we damage the joint and weaken the cartilage and bone in the joint. As this damage manifests, it eventually leads to arthritis. Other conditions may also cause arthritis in the shoulders such as bursitis, a disease characterized by inflammation in the bursae. The immune system is also known to affect the development of arthritis in the joints.

Autoimmune diseases and the shoulder

The interaction between the immune system and the shoulders often leads to arthritis in the shoulders as well. Many forms of arthritis are known to involve the immune system and this can mean causing arthritis in the shoulders. Most famously, rheumatoid arthritis has the ability to spread throughout the body and frequently causes arthritis within the shoulders of sufferers. Psoriatic arthritis may also produce these symptoms in patients, but these underlying cause is quite different due to differences in the genetic makeup of patients.

Unlike osteoarthritis, shoulder arthritis induced by autoimmune disorders is very difficult to treat. Simply providing non-inflammatory pain relief is not enough to prevent many of the more severe symptoms from popping up. Autoimmune disorders are usually treated with immunosuppressants and other medications designed to help alleviate the underlying causes of shoulder arthritis.

Factors behind arthritis in the shoulders

There are a number of factors behind shoulder arthritis. One of the most obvious ones is genetics. Many people assume that arthritis is simply a natural part of aging that all people go through. This sort of thinking is easily discredited by anyone who has ever examined research into the association of age with arthritis. While research does show higher rates of arthritis among the elderly population, it seldom suggests that age itself can produce arthritis. There are too many cases of people well into old age without any sign of arthritis.

A major source of arthritis symptoms is the presence of various hormones involved in development. Research has shown that stress hormones such as cortisol and alpha amylase have a tendency to reduce bone growth and prevent the body from remineralizing its bone structures. Patients with shoulder arthritis generally tend to have higher levels of these biomarkers and they seem to play an important role in the prognosis of this disease.

Who is most likely to have shoulder arthritis

The common misconception is that those people most likely to have arthritis are the elderly, but many forms of arthritis are actually found among young persons at considerably higher rates. Outside of osteoarthritis, most people with arthritis suffer from collagen-based forms induced by a dysfunctional immune system. This goes well beyond what is easily explained by age and clearly shows that shoulder arthritis is a greater concern for the young than the old.

Treatments for shoulder arthritis

There are many ways to treat shoulder arthritis, but they tend to focus on medication and getting proper exercise. Patients are generally treated with whatever medication can alleviate the symptoms of the specific form of arthritis they have developed. This may mean drugs for the immune system or it can simply mean the person in question needs to exercise more. Proper treatment can greatly improve life outcomes for patients. They can go on to live without concerning themselves over the symptoms of the disease they are unfortunately afflicted with.

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Last Reviewed:
June 14, 2017
Last Updated:
October 10, 2017