Diagnosing Arthritis in Seniors
Perhaps one of the most painful accompaniments of aging is the development of arthritis. Almost half of seniors over the age of 65 have some form of chronic arthritis, making it difficult to perform daily tasks or routine movements without significant pain. While arthritis cannot be cured, it can be managed with a treatment regiment designed to reduce pain. The first step is getting an accurate diagnosis to determine what kind of arthritis your senior loved one has:
- Osteoarthritis–The most common type of arthritis among the elderly, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a person’s joints wears away, causing the bones to rub against one another. Symptoms can range from stiffness and mild discomfort to severe, constant pain.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis–Characterized by pain, swelling, and redness in the joints, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself. This type of arthritis may be accompanied by a fever or chronic fatigue.
- Gout–Gout usually begins in the toes, but can spread to other joints. It is extremely painful and may stem from a variety of causes including diet, alcohol usage, blood pressure medications, or weight problems.
In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor may need to run blood tests or take an x-ray of the affected area.
Medical Treatments for Arthritis
When a person receives an arthritis diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe medication to help alleviate pain and swelling. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may also be helpful in managing pain. Some types of arthritis may respond well to prednisone or another corticosteroid, and rheumatoid arthritis may need an anti-rheumatic drug to slow down the damage being caused by the condition.
Alternative treatments for arthritis include acupuncture and dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Others report that they are considering arthritis and joint pain treatment with tumeric. Some patients have experienced relief from using these alternative treatment methods, but it is important to talk with your doctor before trying something of this nature.
Lifestyle Changes to Relieve Arthritis Pain
While medications can help, most arthritis sufferers will also benefit from changes to their lifestyle. Arthritis pain may be a constant companion, but it can be greatly reduced by incorporating some of the following:
- Exercise–Exercise may be the last thing an elderly person with arthritis feels like doing, but studies show that arthritis patients who exercise report diminished pain and greater mobility. Beneficial options may include range-of-motion exercises to relieve stiffness, weight training to improve muscle tone and relieve pressure on joints, and aerobic exercises like walking, bike riding, or swimming to manage weight and reduce swelling. Always speak with a doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- Rest–Rest is another key element of managing any type of pain. As the body responds to the stress caused by arthritis pain, the elderly person may feel tired more often and need more sleep.
- Healthy Diet–Dietary choices can play a part in some types of arthritis, particularly gout. Eating a healthy, balanced diet not only relieves inflammation, but also helps reduce weight and joint pressure.
- Assistive Devices–Senior arthritis patients may benefit from better shoes, a walking cane, or devices to help perform tasks like opening jars or turning doorknobs.
Continuous Care Can Make a Difference
Seniors who suffer from arthritis may find it difficult to perform daily tasks like holding a knife and fork, handling drawer pulls or doorknobs, or even getting dressed and putting on shoes. As these tasks become more difficult, frustration and even depression may result. An in-home caregiver can assist with these everyday activities and can also help with meal preparation and mobility. If you have an elderly family member who suffers from arthritis pain, a caregiver could help him or her maintain a normal lifestyle while managing pain effectively.
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