Arthritis In Seniors: A Basic Guide

osteoarthritis in the knee of senior woman

Microscopic tissue examination of osteoarthrosis in knee joint of elderly female patient. Image Credit: KGH, GNU Free Documentation License

Arthritis is a general term used by doctors to refer to pain and stiffness of the joints. It is one of the most common diseases experienced by the elderly, and can attack any joint in the body. There are many kinds of arthritis and degree of pain varies among these types. Also, most of these are chronic.

Osteoarthritis

The most common type of arthritis in seniors is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (or OA) is a type of arthritis brought about by aging. It starts when the cartilage, or the padding of bones in joints, becomes worn out. In the most severe stages of OA, the cartilage is totally gone and the bones rub against each other.

People with osteoarthritis may experience stiffness and mild pain when they do activities like walking, stooping or bending. They may also suffer pain and stiffness even when they are just sleeping or relaxing. The most common parts affected by this type of arthritis are the hands, knees, hips, neck and lower back. See more Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis.


There are many factors that can cause osteoarthritis. The most common of these is old age. Scientists also state that it depends on which part of the body is affected. According to them, it may also run in the family if the pain is in the hips or the hands. Overworking is also a likely cause of OA, as well as injuries from accidents that may have affected the joints.

Osteoarthritis can be relieved by the intake of medicines that control pain. Exercise is also helpful in making it easier to move the joints. Resting the joints will also ease the pain caused by osteoarthritis. In the worst cases of OA, doctors may give shots to the patient or require surgery to repair or replace the damaged joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another common type of arthritis is called rheumatoid arthritis (or RA). It is an autoimmune disease, which means it is caused by a disorder that makes the patient’s immune system attack their body’s parts. People of any age can experience RA, the onset of which in children is called “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.” It is also more common among women.

As stated, rheumatoid arthritis happens when the person’s immune system attacks his own body. A person with RA will suffer pain and swelling in the area affected. This lasts for hours. The patient may not be able to move the joint and may also feel tiredness and run a fever.

To treat rheumatoid arthritis, doctors may recommend drugs called DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) aside from pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicines. Another type of drug, called biologic response modifiers, can also treat RA through blocking the damage done by the immune system.

Gout

Lastly, the third most common type of arthritis is called goutis, or simply gout. It is also one of the most painful types of arthritis and is brought by the collection of uric acid crystals in the joints.

Gout also has symptoms like the other types of arthritis—swelling, pain and stiffness of the joints. It commonly develops in the big toe but it can also attack other joints in the body like the ankle, knee, hand, wrist, elbows and other toes.

The most common treatment for gout is the use of NSAIDs or corticosteroids, which reduces the swelling for a few hours. It is best to consult with a physician for the prevention of more attacks.

Risk Of Falling Increases For The Elderly With Arthritis

The elderly are more susceptible to falling for various reasons. As one ages, the ability to react and regain balance becomes slower, a person’s eyesight is not as sharp anymore, and body muscles that used to be taunt and strong have a tendency to weaken. All these contribute to an increase the risks of falling for seniors.

The elderly with arthritis face further uphill battle. Arthritis can affect the patient’s and ability to stand and walk comfortably. The difficulty in movements can increase the chances of slipping and falling. Sharp pain can strike at unexpected moments, causing the patient to fall as a result as well.

Seniors with osteoarthritis (OA) are said to have a worse sense of balance. As the cartilage and other tissues in the joints become worn down with osteoarthritis, it can damage some of the nerve sensors that help to keep the body in balance.

Role Of Medical Alert Systems

Due to the increased risks of falling and related medical conditions that could result and cause harm, seniors often have medical alert systems put in place at home. Should falls happen, or in case of any medical emergencies, help can be quickly summoned. The faster the speed of getting help, the more it can prevent their condition from deteriorating and suffering more severe consequences down the road.

A medical alert system at home can help seniors with arthritis get help in medical emergencies and provide the peace of mind that they are taken care of. The discomfort of arthritis can often cloud a person’s outlook. Here are some other tips on Coping With Osteoarthritis For Seniors.

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