Arthritis in Seniors

Stiff joints and aching bones are very common as we age. Arthritis, on the other hand, is not something that comes with age, but it is the leading cause of disability in America. It is most common in women and tends to target older people. Arthritis can often be overlooked by people who attribute its symptoms to lack of exercise, poor diet and just general aches and pains. Although arthritis is a broad term, there are many different types of arthritis that affects different parts of the body. There are three main types of arthritis that are most common in seniors, those are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid, and Psoriatic arthritis. Being diagnosed by a medical professional for the type of arthritis that you have will help you take the right steps to alleviate the pain and discomfort.  Let’s review each type of arthritis and the different treatments available.

 

Osteoarthritis

This is one of the most common forms of arthritis in seniors and effects millions of people worldwide. For joints to function correctly and without pain, the ends of our bones are protected with cartilage. When this cartilage breaks down and your joints rub together, causing pain and stiffness, this is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can take place in any joint and there are areas of the body that it tends to target the most.

Commonly affected areas
⦁ Hands
⦁ Fingertips
⦁ Knees
⦁ Hips
⦁ Spine (lower back)

Most common symptoms
⦁ Pain
⦁ Tenderness
⦁ Stiffness
⦁ Inflammation

As time goes on, the pain and discomfort will become more intense. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are ways to manage the symptoms. Healthy lifestyle choices are a great place to start. Make sure you are exercising, getting enough rest, and eating foods that promote joint health. If you would like an alternative to prescription medications to manage symptoms, below is a list.

Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis
⦁ Fish oil
⦁ Green Tea
⦁ Ginger
⦁ Acupuncture
⦁ Physical therapy
⦁ Massage therapy

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. A healthy immune system fights off unwanted invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. When you have RA, your immune system somehow mistakes healthy cells for invaders and therefore releases inflammatory chemicals to fight off the ‘’invaders”, in this case, healthy cells. When this happens, the tissue that is lining your joints gets inflamed, causing swelling and tenderness in the joints. Typically, this disease will occur in the same joint on both sides of the body.

Commonly affected areas
⦁ Hands
⦁ Knees
⦁ Ankles

Sometimes RA can also cause issues in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, heart, and lungs. Rheumatoid Arthritis tends to be more common in women than in men for unknown reasons and there are different symptoms that may occur in the later stages of RA. In the early stages, you may not see any redness or swelling in the joints but may experience tenderness and pain.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
⦁ Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness that last for longer than six weeks
⦁ Morning stiffness that lasts longer than 30 minutes
⦁ More than one joint is affected
⦁ The same joint of both sides of the body are affected

People afflicted with RA will feel very fatigued and may experience a low-grade fever. These symptoms come and go, but the inflammation can be constant for a long period of time.

Treatment
Although there is no cure for RA, if detected early, you can manage your symptoms effectively and even improve them. Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, medication, and even surgery can make a significant difference in your quality life if started early. The main treatment goals for rheumatoid arthritis are to control the inflammation, ease pain, and reduce disability. There are many types of medications and therapies available to help manage RA so be sure to speak with a medical professional.

 

Psoriatic Arthritis

Typically, psoriatic arthritis develops in 40% of people with psoriasis and on rare occasions, psoriatic arthritis may occur on its own with no evidence of psoriasis at all. Psoriasis triggers inflammation and the formation of skin plaques. This condition occurs when the swollen and sore joints of arthritis are combined with the scaly, red and itchy patches on the skin caused by psoriasis. Over time, the inflammation begins to “spill over” and affect other organ systems and, in the case of psoriatic arthritis, the joints. There are five different types of psoriatic arthritis, and knowing the difference can help to decide what kind of treatment you should seek.

Types of Psoriatic Arthritis

1.     Symmetric Psoriatic Arthritis:
The most common type of psoriatic arthritis and affects the same joints, usually in multiple matching pairs on opposite sides of the body. You will feel the pain and discomfort on both sides of your body in places such as knees, hands, hips, and feet. This is often mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis, as it affects both sides of your body equally.  Symmetric psoriatic arthritis can be disabling causing varying degrees of progressive joint pain and loss of function. Around half of all people with symmetric psoriatic arthritis will experience some degree of disability.

2.     Asymmetric Psoriatic Arthritis:
This type is a milder form that affects joints only on one side of your body. It affects no more than five joints and often happens in one knee, one side of the hip and one wrist. The larger joints tend to be affected, though the hand and foot may also be involved. Men tend to have asymmetric disease more frequently than women.

3.     Distal Psoriatic Arthritis:
Distal psoriatic arthritis predominantly affects the ends of the fingers and toes. The distal interphalangeal joints are those closest to the nails and frequent nail changes are common with this form of psoriatic arthritis. It accounts for less than 10% of psoriatic arthritis cases, and while rare, it will get worse without proper treatment.

4.     Spondylitis:
This is one of the more uncomfortable types of psoriatic arthritis and affects approximately 5% of people with psoriatic arthritis and most are men. You will experience lower back pain and a stiff neck which makes bending difficult due to your spine being inflamed. You may also experience headaches, bladder issues, shoulder stiffness, and weak arms and legs.

5.     Arthritis Mutilans
This is the most severe and rarest type of psoriatic arthritis and is deforming and destructive developing in about 5% of people. It damages the small joints in your hands and feet and causing bone tissue to disappear and making it impossible to bend or straighten the affected joint.

Treatment

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis and treatments focus on the alleviation of inflammation to reduce pain, maintain range of motion and slow the progression of the disease.

Medical options based on the type of psoriatic arthritis can include:
⦁ Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
⦁ Physical therapy
⦁ Occupational therapy
⦁ Oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone
⦁ Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate or cyclosporine
⦁ Biologic drugs, such as Humira (adalimumab) and Enbrel (etanercept)
⦁ Intra-articular joint injections, including cortisone and hyaluronic acid

Natural Remedies
⦁ Massage
⦁ Cold or heat therapy
⦁ Stretching
⦁ Yoga and meditation
⦁ Weight loss (helps with strain on joints)
⦁ Stress management

Conclusion

Although there is no cure for arthritis there are several options to manage this disease such as medication and holistic homeopathic treatments to help in managing the pain. Being affected at an older age can limit independence, which can lead to other health issues. Always be sure to consult with your health care provider about the best way to manage your arthritis and preserve your quality of life.

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One Comment

  1. Arthritis attacks the bones and joint tissue. The most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid, osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Those who experience arthritis tend to be in constant pain or discomfort. Yoga, staying active and working with your medical practitioner can help quality of life and reduce pain.

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