Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints that is chronic or recurrent. Such inflammations can have negative impacts on all parts of the joint including the bone, ligament, cartilage, and synovial fluid.
There are different types of arthritis in seniors, however, they all share similar symptoms. These include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling with the intensity varying from day to day, hence making it frustrating to live with arthritis.
In America, 49.7% of people over 65 years have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Arthritis is also considered the leading cause of disability in the nation as the inflammation can affect multiple joints, resulting in tenderness and mobility issues.
Common causes include the wear and tear of joints from overuse, injuries, obesity, genes, autoimmune disorders, muscle weakness, and age.
Types of Arthritis
Also known as degenerative joint disease, it often affects individuals over the age of 60. It is associated with pain, disability, and limited motion. Osteoarthritis starts with the breakdown of cartilage within a joint leading to the deterioration of ligaments and tendons. According to NIH, OA commonly affects the hands, hips, lower back, knees, and neck.
Causes of OA are linked to systemic factors like hormones, genetics, diet, and bone density. Acute factors such as muscle weakness, obesity, and overuse of joints are also known to cause osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
An autoimmune and inflammatory disease, RA is a result of the immune system attacking healthy cells in the body accidentally leading to chronic inflammation. As a systemic form of arthritis, it affects multiple joints at once. Rheumatoid Arthritis tends to come and go with long-lasting symptoms and inflammation referred to as flares.
RA can affect other organs in the body such as kidneys, salivary glands, heart, bone marrow, or blood vessels. In the long run, it can result in chronic pain, deformity, and a lack of balance. Some risk factors that can lead to rheumatoid arthritis include age, gender, lifestyle, early life exposure, genetics, and obesity.
Caused by hyperuricemia, a condition where excess uric acid accumulates in the body resulting in crystals of uric acid in connective joints and tissues, gout is one of the most painful forms of arthritis. It affects joints, kidneys, bursae, and tendon sheaths.
Signs of gout include swelling, heat, pain, redness, and joint stiffness. Gout attacks tend to happen when individuals eat purine-rich foods such as red meat or some kinds of seafood like sardines. Common causes of gout include underlying health conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, or hypertension. Additionally, gender and being overweight also cause gout.
Other Forms of Arthritis
Reactive Arthritis is caused by bacterial infections in the urinary tract or genitals or the digestive system. Arthritis symptoms tend to set in after recovering from the infection and they could include inflamed joints, eyes, and urinary tract. Risk factors include genetics, HIV infection, gender, and age.
Psoriatic Arthritis affects people with psoriasis where they experience nail changes, lower back pain, inflamed eyes and joints and swollen fingers. The immune system tends to become overactive and creates inflammation. It is often caused by genetic factors and environmental factors such as infection, stress, injury, or obesity.
Ankylosing spondylitis mainly affects the spine causing some spine bones to fuse over time. Some common symptoms include pain that is worse in the morning, fatigue, rigid spine curving forward, challenges taking deep breaths, and swollen joints. Linked to genes, other causes can include gender and age.
Caring for Seniors with Arthritis
Prescribed medication by a physician is one way to treat arthritis pain. The services of an in-home caregiver can provide medication reminders to ensure that your loved one takes the medication as prescribed. Other medical interventions can include joint repair, immunosuppressant drugs, joint fusion procedures, and cortisone injections to relieve pain.
A proper diet is one of the most effective ways to alleviate discomfort and pain caused by arthritis. Focusing on a diet that is high in vegetables and fruits can help reduce inflammation. Working with a nutritionist will help you understand the best food choices for managing arthritis. For seniors who are unable to prepare the required food, meal preparation, and planning services can be provided by professional caregivers.
Movement is key in managing arthritis in seniors. It reduces pain and chances of developing other chronic diseases as well as improving your overall mood. In-home caregivers can assist you to keep moving through simple activities like a walk in the park, gardening, or exercises such as stretching or water aerobics.
Obesity is a common symptom in most types of arthritis, therefore, maintaining a healthy weight is important in arthritis management. Being within a healthy weight range ensures that there is no extra pressure on the painful joints.
Frequent Medical Check-Ups
It is important to work closely with all the medical teams involved in providing care for a senior with arthritis. Visiting your physician for regular check-ups and a nutritionist for consulting on dietary changes can help in the management of arthritis. Coordinating communication between all teams including in-home caregivers can go a long way in improving care for seniors with arthritis.
Some home remedies that can be used for arthritic pain include applying heat or cold, soaking in warm salt baths, acupuncture, meditation, or massages. While attempting these remedies, it is important to consult your physician or do them in the presence of a professional home health nurse.
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