Seniors and Arthritis

No matter what age you are, arthritis can flare up leading to pain that can be debilitating in some cases. Arthritis is extremely common among seniors with nearly half of those ages 65 and older suffering from some type of arthritis pain.

The tricky thing about arthritis is that it can attack almost any part of the body at any time. Those who suffer from arthritis never know if the attack will last a few hours, a few days, or in some cases result in a chronic condition.

Signs of Arthritis in the Elderly

If you’ve never had arthritis, but suddenly feel unexplained joint pain, you may be getting arthritis. Here are some other signs:

  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Tenderness or pain when touching a joint
  • Problems moving the joint
  • Warmth and redness on a joint

If you begin to experience any of these issues and they don’t go away within two weeks, it’s time to see a doctor. If you develop a fever along with any of those symptoms, you need to see a doctor right away.

When you see your doctor you may need to get an X-ray or other tests done so the doctor can determine if you have arthritis or another condition.

Types of Senior Arthritis

Not all arthritis cases are the same. There are different types that require different treatments:

Osteoarthritis

This is the most common form of arthritis in seniors. When cartilage begins to tear and wear away, osteoarthritis sets in. Since cartilage pads bones in the joints, it makes sense that there would be pain when this begins to wear away. Pain can range from stiffness to pain when walking, bending down, or even sleeping. Osteoarthritis is most common in your hands, neck, lower-back, knees and hips. There is no direct trigger of this type of arthritis and often comes on with age.

Treatment

The pain caused by osteoarthritis can be treated with acetaminophen or other pain relievers. Many can be bought over-the-counter while some may be prescribed by your doctor. In either case be sure to discuss the potential side effects of taking these medicines with your doctor. If you have osteoarthritis in your knees, keeping your weight down will help relieve the pain. In some cases, doctors may advise shots in the joints to relieve the pain. In the most severe cases, surgery may be required.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an autoimmune disease. When someone suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the body attacks the lining of the joints just as it would if it were trying to protect you from disease. The pain that Rheumatoid Arthritis patients experience comes from the inflammation in the joints that this condition causes. That inflammation leads to pain and swelling that can last for hours. Sometimes the pain is severe that the person cannot even move their joint. The most common places for Rheumatoid Arthritis to flair is in the fingers, wrist, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, feet and neck. An interesting fact about RA is that if you have it in one place on one side of your body, you’re likely to get it in the same place on the other side of your body. RA can also attack the heart, blood vessels and nervous system. People who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis often get tired quickly and sometimes run a fever. While both men and women can get the condition, it is more common in women.

Treatment

Besides over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, your doctor may also prescribe anti-rheumatic drugs to slow down the damage from the disease.

Gout

Anyone who has had gout can understand why it is considered one of the most painful forms of arthritis. When uric acid forms in the connective tissues or joint spaces, gout sets in. This leads to pain, swelling, and heat in the joint. It is often triggered after a patient eats foods like shellfish, liver, dried beans, peas, anchovies or gravy. Gout can also get worse by being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, and by taking certain medications, including certain blood pressure medications. While gout is most common in the big toe, it can also be found in other toes as well as the ankle, knee, wrist, or hand. When an area becomes swollen due to gout you may notice the skin getting pulled tightly as it begins to turn purple or red.

Treatment

Your doctor will most likely discuss what triggered the attack so you can avoid it the next time. In addition, you may be prescribed corticosteroids to reduce the swelling.

Reactive Arthritis

As the name suggests, reactive arthritis is a reaction to an infection somewhere else in the body. While a symptom of reactive arthritis includes joint inflammation it can also include conjunctivitis (pink eye) and inflammation of the urinary tract.

Treatment

Since this type of arthritis is caused by an infection, a doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. You may also be advised to take anti-inflammatory drugs.

Other Arthritis Treatments

While each type of arthritis has its own treatments that are best, there are some general ways to treat arthritis.

  • Daily Exercise – One way to prevent and treat joint stiffness and pain is to keep them moving. Walking, swimming, bike riding…anything that keeps you moving can help.
  • Strengthening Exercises – Lifting weights is a good way to build muscle. Strong muscles help to protect your joints.
  • Range-of-Motion Exercises – Dancing and yoga are two great examples of this because they both keep you moving and improve flexibility.

Applying heat or cold to the area affected by arthritis may also help to treat it. Even soaking in a warm bath or heated pool can help. You can protect your joints by resting and eating a well-balanced diet. Also wearing the right shoes can help to protect your feet and lessen the strain on your joints.

If you suspect you are suffering from arthritis, be sure to call your doctor to schedule an appointment so you don’t have to suffer in pain.