Arthritis in Seniors: Treatment and Symptoms

Arthritis, in its simplest form, is inflammation of the joints in our bodies.  It can also affect muscle and other surrounding tissue.  There are more than a hundred “kinds” of arthritis and a variety of treatments.  Millions of people are affected by arthritis.  Arthritis will limit your ability to open/twist cans, bend, kneel, climb and walk.  Arthritis is found more often in women.  People who are obese or over weight are more likely to develop arthritis due to added pressure put on the knees and the hips with every extra pound a person gains.

Those individuals whose careers and jobs require repetitive movements are at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Main Types of Arthritis

  • Osteoarthritisaffects joints after many years of use and abuse from everyday life and injury and is the breakdown of the tissue inside the joint that provides a cushion for the bone(s).   It is the most prevalent form of arthritis.  The most commonly affected joints are the hips, knees, hands and spine.
  • Rheumatoid – This is described as your immune system attacking your body’s own tissue, muscle, organs, skin and nerves (autoimmune disease).  It is the second most prevalent form of arthritis and is generally a progressive lifelong disease.  It affects not only those joints listed above but also wrists, ankles, shoulders and elbows. Joints will be swollen, painful and stiff.
  • Gout – This form of arthritis affects only a few joints and is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals inside the joint.  It will cause swelling, redness and in many cases, severe pain.  Gout will usually develop in the big toe and ankle.
  • Infectious ArthritisInfectious arthritis will develop when a bodies infection journeys throughout the bloodstream to a joint.  Staphylococcus (staph infection) is an infectious arthritis.

Symptoms of Arthritis

  • OsteoarthritisSwelling at the affected joint area caused by joint cushion degeneration.  This means that the protective cushion in-between our joints is warn away and it is bone on bone.  This may also cause the bones to chip.

The joints will feel stiff and sore when we walk upstairs, bend or even when we remain in the same position for a longer period of time.  Getting our joints moving again can take a moment or two if we have been sitting or driving for a while.

  • Rheumatoidinflammation to the cushion of your joints from the autoimmune response that rheumatoid arthritis causes.  This will be very painful, can happen to a number of the joints at the same time and will also attack the organs of the body.  

People who have rheumatoid arthritis are often very ill and tired.  This disease can happen at any age and more often affects females than males.

  • Goutthis type of arthritis is often referred to as an “attack” of Gout.  It affects the big toe but can affect other joints as well.  Swelling around the affected area will cause the skin to be stretched tightly causing redness, swelling and extreme pain.  Gout has been associated with eating certain foods.  Being on medications alone with being overweight may heighten the risk of having an attack of gout.

Treatment Options

There are some treatment options that can be put into effect no matter what form of arthritis a person is suffering from.  

  • Exercise will support continued muscle development and joint movement.  Yoga, weight training, biking, swimming, walking and running are good options for those dealing with arthritis.
  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Maintain a healthy and nutritious daily eating plan. Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and nuts. Exchange butter with olive oil or coconut oil. To add seasoning to your dishes switch from salt and pepper to herbs and spices. If you choose to eat red meat it should be no more than two times a month.
  • Weight Loss is vital to taking unnecessary pressure off your joints.
  • Taking OTC anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen can ease the pain of arthritis.  Your doctor may also recommend corticosteroid injections for the specific joint.  
  • Prescribed medicines after consultation with your family doctor.
  • For Osteoarthritis making sure that your weight is under control is very important.
  • For Rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may prescribe drugs that will slow the progression of the disease.  They may also give you a variety of steroid treatments to help with the swelling associated with RA.
  • For Gout, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid to reduce swelling.  They will also develop a plan to figure out what caused the attack of gout and how to avoid another one.  There are also medications that can be given to reduce or prevent any future potential attacks.
  • It may help to apply heat or cold to the affected joint/area.
  • Surgery to replace affected joints, most commonly the knees and hips.
  • Physical therapist can create a plan that will help to reduce the pain.  There are additional supports that they can fit you with that will help support the affected joint area.
  • You can purchase all sorts of helpful can or bottle grips to make opening them easier.  There are canes, scooters, wheelchairs and walkers that can provide support.
  • Homeopathic/natural remedies, supplements such as glucosamine, fish oil and reducing stress may help arthritic symptoms.

As with everything the best answers will come from consultation with your family doctor.