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Researchers make arthritis breakthrough

July 3, 2012

Living with arthritis is a part of life for many seniors, but results of a new study may make coping with the disease a bit easier. Researchers from Newcastle University believe they have identified genes that increase the risk of arthritis by as much as 20 percent and that their findings may be used to develop drugs to treat the condition, The Telegraph reports.

The findings were recently published in The Lancet medical journal and were the result of an extensive analysis of approximately 18,400 people. Of that group, 7,400 had severe arthritis and 11,000 were healthy. After comparing the genetics of each group, the team found there were certain genes more common in those with arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of the disease and affects an estimated 27 million adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently there is no cure for the condition, and the only treatment options are pain killers and in some cases, joint replacement surgery. The researchers are confident their findings may provide an alternate route.

"In this study we were able to say with a high degree of confidence which genetic regions are the major risk factors for developing osteoarthritis: the first time that this has been possible for this common yet complex disease," lead author John Loughlin told the newspaper. "It's an important first step."

Already a hallmark of healthy aging, staying physically active has proven to be an effective method of treating arthritis. Some older adults may be hesitant to exercise given the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis, but according to WebMD, range-of-motion exercises and strength regimens can help relieve pain and fatigue. Additionally, an exercise routine can increase normal joint movement and keep bone and cartilage healthy.