Arthritis, a health condition affecting about 20% of the Canadian population, is usually associated with older persons. Generally, it is more common among women, and while anyone can develop arthritis, the likelihood increases with age.
The condition causes discomfort in older adults, with pain in body joints like the wrist, knees, hips, and ankles. It can affect their ability to carry out basic daily activities such as bathing, cooking, eating, etc.
Understanding arthritis is vital in ensuring better management of arthritis symptoms in our older loved ones. For this reason, Seasons Retirement, a reputed retirement home in Canada, encourages their residents to live healthily to prevent and slow down disease progression.
They have compiled this article to explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment of arthritis to help older adults manage arthritic pain in the best possible way.
Causes of Arthritis
Understanding what causes arthritis is the first step to better handling the condition. Although the exact cause of arthritis is unknown, there are risk factors that may contribute to its development, some of which include:
As we grow older, our body joints may become weaker. This is an essential factor that explains why the likelihood of having any type of arthritis increases with age. Also, the severity of the symptoms tends to increase with age.
Certain types of arthritis are prevalent in some families. Therefore, one may develop arthritis if their family has a history of the condition. For example, arthritis types like rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and systemic lupus erythematosus tend to run in families.
A person’s gender is a non-modifiable risk factor. Some types of arthritis are more common in a specific gender. For example, gout is more associated with males than females. However, it is worth noting that most types of arthritis are more prevalent in females.
Being overweight puts pressure on the joints, increasing the chances of wear and tear, thus leading to osteoarthritis. This is why people with obesity are at a higher risk of developing arthritis than those with moderate weight.
5. Joint injury
Previous injury to the joint can increase the risk of arthritis. For example, a sports injury to the joint can cause osteoarthritis.
Certain occupations are associated with activities that can put pressure on the joints and cause osteoarthritis. For example, jobs that require frequent squatting and knee bending.
Microorganisms can infect the joints and cause inflammation, triggering the development and emergence of different kinds of arthritis. Arthritis caused by infection is also known as reactive arthritis and can persist for up to 24 weeks. Note that arthritis type can occur at any age and is difficult to diagnose.
In addition, some lifestyle activities like smoking and not engaging in enough physical activities can increase the chances of developing arthritis.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Signs of arthritis vary from person to person. It can be mild in some people and more severe in others. However, some common symptoms include stiffness, joint pain, and swelling.
Below are some early arthritis symptoms to look out for.
1. Joint swelling
During the early stages of arthritis, you may notice swellings around the joints. This indicates that the condition is progressing and needs quick attention.
Also, swellings on the joints may appear occasionally. With time, the swellings will become frequent, leading to difficulties in moving the joints.
2. Joint stiffness
This is an early sign of arthritis. It occurs mainly in the morning – just after waking up or resting. The stiffness can last for a few minutes for osteoarthritis. However, those with rheumatoid arthritis may experience joint stiffness that lasts for a more extended period.
Fatigue is not an obvious symptom and may begin earlier than other arthritis symptoms. If, alongside other symptoms, you start experiencing unusual tiredness that lasts for extended periods, you may have arthritis.
4. Numbness and tingling
Inflammation from arthritis puts pressure on the joints and nerves, causing numbness and tingling sensations. Also, in the early stages of arthritis, one can feel a burning sensation that extends to other body parts when moving the joints.
People with rheumatoid arthritis may develop a fever in the early stages. Therefore, if your older ones are experiencing low-grade fever along with any of the symptoms mentioned above, it may be an early sign of arthritis.
Some other symptoms of arthritis and joint inflammation include rash, redness, warmth, joint tenderness, and limited motion range, among others.
Diagnosis of Arthritis
Arthritis diagnosis is the first step to treatment. During the diagnosis, your doctor will conduct a physical examination to check the joints for warmth, swelling, or redness.
Laboratory tests can be carried out on bodily fluids like urine, blood, and joint fluid. Doctors obtain a sample of joint fluid by sterilizing the joint area and inserting a syringe. This type of diagnosis can be used to differentiate osteoarthritis from other arthritis forms.
Physicians can also use imaging tests to diagnose the type of arthritis. For example, X-rays visualize the bone and track the progression of the condition. Also, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used during the diagnosis for cross-sectional images of ligaments, cartilages and tendons.
Furthermore, ultrasound technology uses sound waves to picture cartilages, soft tissues and structures containing fluids around the joints.
Treatment of Arthritis
Although there’s no cure for arthritis, there are treatments that can help your loved ones better manage the condition. The treatment for arthritis which aims to reduce joint damage, minimize pain, and improve the quality of life, includes medications, taking nutrient-rich diets, engaging in frequent exercise, rest, and physical therapy.
If your parents or grandparents are experiencing joint pain, the first step is to go for a diagnosis. This will help determine the cause of the pain. You should note that the course of treatment and management may vary depending on the type of arthritis, body parts affected, and severity.
Encourage your older relatives to tell their physicians about their symptoms. Before the appointment, you can make a list of their past medical history and medications. Also, if they engage in activities that exert pressure on the joints, it’s best to use joint protective wear to help reduce the likelihood of arthritis.
Even though there’s no cure for arthritis yet, taking a proper diet and participating in suitable activities will help your loved ones stay energetic and full of life.