Understanding and Treating Senior Arthritis – Types, Symptoms and Care

Did you know that arthritis is the leading cause of disability amongst adults in the United States? Arthritis affects 15% people in India (180 million) – a number that is much higher than the prevalence of cancer, AIDS or diabetes! These statistics are not to be taken lightly, since arthritis can strike anyone, and at any point of time in life. Read on as we take a deeper look at arthritis and analyze its main causes, types and treatment options.   Understanding and Treating Senior Arthritis What are the root causes of arthritis? While it is important to acknowledge that your body will have its wear and tear as you grow older (and wiser), there are certain other factors that can contribute to causing arthritis. Here is a quick look at the top ones: 1. Age, of course You are getting old! Yes, age is perhaps the foremost cause of arthritis. The body gets weaker with age and hence, there is a high possibility of senior citizens developing joint inflammation. 2. Obesity If you don’t watch your weight, you might be putting yourself under the risk of developing arthritis. Studies show that some or the other kind of arthritis are common amongst overweight people. 3. Genetics Like so many good or unfortunate things in life, arthritis too can be passed on through the genes. There are, however, ways to control it even if it is hereditary. 4. Injury/Overuse Injuries that are left unattended (or take too long to heal) and overuse of specific joints could also result in arthritis. 5. Weak muscles If the muscles around your joints are weak, it may well become a cause for arthritis. What are some of the most common types of arthritis? While there are hundreds of variations and types when it comes to joint problems and inflammatory issues, here are the three primary (and most widespread) types of arthritis that you must know about:

  • OSTEOARTHRITIS (OA)

The most common type of arthritis is called OA and it usually kicks in when the cartilage starts wearing away. In the worst-case scenario, it can leave your joint completely worn out, causing bones to rub against each other. The most affected parts include your knees, hips, lower back, neck, and hands (basically parts that bear a lot of weight). It is predicted that India will be the ‘capital of OA’ by 2025 with over 60 million people likely to be affected. According to WHO statistics, 9.6% of men and 18.0% of women aged over 60 years have symptomatic osteoarthritis around the world. 80% of those with osteoarthritis will have limitations in movement, and 25% cannot perform their major daily activities of life. Osteoarthritis treatment:

  • Medicines
  • Exercise
  • Weight control
  • Shots in the joint (if required)
  • Joint replacement (in extreme cases)

Understanding and Treating Senior Arthritis

  • RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (RA)

Essentially an autoimmune disease, RA causes major joint inflammation, resulting in a lot of pain, swelling and/or long-lasting stiffness. It can occur in multiple joints simultaneously, making it furthermore difficult to deal with. Although this kind of arthritis can happen to anyone, it has been observed that RA is more common in women. It can affect any joint in the body (unlike OA); in fact, it is known to attack vital organs like your heart, eyes, blood vessels, etc. This chronic disease affects 1% of the entire world’s population. Women are three times more likely to develop RA compared to men. Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment:

  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Corticosteroids (to ease the swelling)
  • Biologic response modifiers

Understanding and Treating Senior Arthritis

  • GOUT

Perhaps the most painful forms of arthritis, gout attacks happen when uric acid crystals start forming in or around the joint. Swelling, acute pain, stiffness, redness and inflammation are common signs of a gout attack and experts believe there is a food-related connection, too. Foods like peas, dried beans, shellfish, liver, etc. are known to trigger such attacks – especially for those who are prone to gout. Gout attacks generally affect the toes, ankles, and wrists. Gout treatment:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids (to manage the swelling)

What are the symptoms of arthritis? Here is a quick look at some of the most common arthritis symptoms, no matter what the type:

  • Joint inflammation or redness
  • Joint swelling
  • Lasting joint pain or tenderness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Difficulty moving a joint
  • Disability (in severe cases)

What are the best ways to manage arthritis effectively? When it comes to dealing with a difficult condition like arthritis, there are no half measures. You will need to take your arthritis treatment seriously and do everything in your power to work towards rehabilitation and gradual recovery (apart from ensuring that it doesn’t reoccur). Here are some proven ways to enable joint pain relief and manage arthritis effectively: Exercise

  • The range of motion exercises like dance and yoga that aid flexibility
  • Muscle strengthening workouts that help build strength in the muscles around the affected joint(s)
  • Endurance exercises like running, riding a bicycle or practising aerobics

Rest

  • Stress is known to aggravate all kinds of illnesses or unfortunate health conditions. It is, hence, important to give your body the best chance of recovering by getting ample sleep and resting after the body gets any kind of exercise.

Good habits

  • Regular consumption of alcohol may lead to a greater risk of arthritis. It is recommended that you keep the intake under check (even otherwise!).
  • Excessive smoking may also make things worse. Stay away from this damaging habit.

Good footwear

  • Get yourself a comfortable pair of shoes that fit you well, leaving ample space to accommodate your toes.
  • Quality insoles are a must since they provide comfort and stability when you walk. The quality and material of footwear are often ignored by most of us.

Walking aids

  • Age catching up? You have a variety of mobility support devices to choose from. For starters, you could pick a walking stick that helps you walk with support.
  • For moderate to severe cases of arthritis, walkers are fantastic mobility assistance devices that can bear your body weight and also be a trusted partner who helps you get your daily dose of walking.
  • In very extreme cases, you could opt for a wheelchair (in case the pain is unbearable or in case the patient is unable to walk even with the help of a stick or walker).

Arthritis is a plaguing issue amongst the elderly and needs to be managed smartly. A huge part of managing arthritis and joint pain problems is being aware of what ‘proven’ treatments exist out there. Beware of superstitions or scientifically-weak treatment suggestions by those around you (yes, snake venom and copper bracelets just won’t do it). Early detection and instant measures can restrict the damage arthritis can otherwise cause in the long run. So, in case you (or someone you know) shows any of the aforementioned symptoms, seek professional medical help immediately.