How To Help An Elderly Loved One With Arthritis
As a caregiver to a senior with arthritis, one of the most important things to remember is to be empathetic and to listen. Make sure your loved ones concerns are heard and that you help communicate them to a health care provider so arthritis is properly diagnosed and treated.
During the early stages of senior arthritis, its important to track symptoms, medications, dietary habits, and physical activity. This information can be used by a doctor to identify patterns of your loved one that may need adjusting.
Other ways to help a senior with arthritis include the following:
- Encourage physical activity. Depending on their capabilities, you could sign them up for exercise classes or simply go on daily walks with them.
- Keep track of their medications and treatment. Help ensure proper care while avoiding the dangers of an overdose. It can also help you see changes in symptoms to identify what works for them.
- Help them eat a well-balanced diet. Incorporate arthritis-friendly, anti-inflammatory foods into their meals, while limiting inflammatory foods that worsen the effects of arthritis.
- Create an arthritis-friendly home environment. Install grab bars and toilet seat risers in the bathroom. Use Velcro instead of buttons. Get them shoehorns to make putting on shoes easier.
No matter the path you and your loved one choose to take, its important to work closely with them and their primary care provider to ensure their arthritis is properly managed.
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Tips To Ease Joint Pain
Arthritis joint pain and symptoms can make simple activities difficult. This head-to-toe guide can help.
Arthritis pain in even one joint can take a toll on your entire body. For example, a painful neck can prevent you from turning your head properly, placing stress on your shoulders. A painful knee may cause you to walk in a way that affects your hips, back and feet. And holding a joint still to protect it can make moving it more difficult and in some cases almost impossible over time.
If joint pain is caused by an inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile idiopathic arthritis, systemic treatment is needed to stop inflammation that can lead to joint damage or destruction. For flares of pain, persistent pain or pain due to other causes, there are many things you can do on your own or ask your doctor or physical therapist about to get relief.
Solutions vary and may include splints, therapeutic exercises or more informal daily modifications at home and beyond. Here are a few suggestions to help ease joint pain head-to-toe:
Neck pain can make it difficult to look up or turn your head sideways. If you avoid twisting your neck by moving your shoulders or entire body, the surrounding muscles may hurt as much as the joints themselves.
The mandible joint can be a frequent source of discomfort, making it painful to bite into a thick sandwich or an apple. Jaw pain is common on the side of the face or just in front of the ear.
Crystalline Deposits In The Joints
Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected, but it can also happen in other joints. Sometimes, the joint gets hot and red. Gout is caused by uric acid crystals. Risk factors for gout include obesity, eating a lot of meat, drinking beer, age , sex , and family history.
You should see a healthcare professional to see if uric acid crystals have accumulated in the joint. Gout can be diagnosed based on symptoms, but it’s also common to take a sample of joint fluid for testing. A physician can give you a prescription for anti-inflammatory medications and/ or pain medications. There are also medications to stop your body from making too much uric acid. Sometimes, a shot in the joint can help with symptoms also.
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What Is Joint Inflammation
When you think of arthritis, youâre probably thinking of inflammation. Inflammation is a process in which your body’s white blood cells and immune proteins help protect you from infection and things like bacteria and viruses.
In some diseases, your immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there isnât anything to fight off. With these diseases, called autoimmune diseases, your body’s immune system damages its own tissues. Your body responds as if normal tissues need to be fought off.
Does It Run In Families
You cant pass reactive arthritis on to your children. However, they can inherit the HLA-B27 gene, which could slightly increase their chance of getting the condition. This doesnt mean that by having this gene theyll definitely get reactive arthritis. However, the condition tends to be more common in people with HLA-B27.
Around 1 in every 10 people in the UK carry this gene.
The first signs of reactive arthritis are often:
- painful and swollen joints, usually in the ankles or knees
- sausage-like swelling of fingers or toes
- puffy, sore, red eyes, often with a mucus discharge known as conjunctivitis
- extreme, unexplained tiredness, known as fatigue
You may notice that your knees, ankles or toes suddenly become swollen, stiff and painful to move. Or the swelling may appear gradually over a few days.
Reactive arthritis can also affect other joints, such as your fingers, wrists, elbows and the joints at the base of your spine, known as the sacroiliac joints . It can also cause inflammation in the tendons around your joints, such as the Achilles tendon which runs down the back of your ankle.
You may find your whole finger or toe swells up if both the tendons and joints become affected at the same time. This is often called sausage digit or dactylitis .
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Other Forms Of Arthritis
As mentioned previously, there are many forms of arthritis. Some less common forms of arthritis include psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and reactive arthritis.
- Psoriatic arthritis. People with psoriasis can also develop arthritis. Typically, they experience swollen fingers and toes, nail changes, lower back pain, eye inflammation, and inflammation of joints, according to a psoriatic arthritis overview by the NIAMS.
- Ankylosing spondylitis. Mainly affecting the spine, ankylosing spondylitis can cause some of the bones in the spine to fuse over time, according to clinical manifestation research published by UpToDate. Early signs include pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
- Reactive arthritis. Triggered by other infections in the body, reactive arthritis typically targets the knees, ankle, and feet. Signs and symptoms come and go, usually clearing up within a few weeks or months, according to a reactive arthritis overview published by the NIAMS.
Although its not a type of arthritis, lupus is known as an arthritic condition because of the chronic inflammation associated with it. Approximately 95% of lupus patients experience arthritis at some point, according to the John Hopkins Lupus Center. If you or your loved one has lupus, be sure to check for symptoms of arthritis as well.
How Is Arthritis In The Hand Treated
Treatment options depend on the type of arthritis, stage of arthritis, how many joints are affected, your age, activity level, the hand affected and other existing medical conditions.
Goals of treatment are to:
- Improve mobility and function.
- Increase your quality of life.
- In the case of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, to slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment options include splinting/bracing, medications, injections, non-drug approaches and surgery.
Splits or braces support and protect the affected joint, reduce deformity, provide joint stability, lessen strain, and promote proper joint alignment. Your healthcare provider, occupational therapist or hand therapist will discuss splinting/bracing options, how and when to wear them and how long to wear them .
Steroids reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Steroids are usually used if medications dont control inflammation or if the inflammation is limited to a few joints. Injections are administered directly into the affected joint. Because steroids can weaken tendons and ligaments, injections are repeated only a few times.
Other management strategies
A complete treatment plan for arthritis of the hand includes these additional approaches:
If nonsurgical treatments no longer provide relief and the cartilage at the ends of your bones has worn away, surgery may be an option. There are several approaches:
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Key Points About Arthritis
Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases cause pain, swelling, and limited movement in joints and connective tissues in the body.
Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases can affect people of all ages. They are more common in women than men.
Symptoms may include pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth, or redness in 1 or more joints.
There is no cure for arthritis. The treatment goal is to limit pain and inflammation and preserve joint function.
Treatment options include medicines, weight reduction, exercise, and surgery.
Types Of Inflammatory Arthritis
If you are experiencing symptoms that suggest inflammatory arthritis, your doctor will perform a number of tests, including a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging exams . Sometimes the physician takes a sample of fluid from an affected joint for analysis a procedure called joint aspiration.
Based on the results of these exams, your physician will determine if you have inflammatory arthritis and if so, which type:
is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. It tends to involve more than one of the small joints of the hands and feet. In particular, the lining of the joint or tendons is inflamed, causing warmth, pain, and stiffness. In 30% to 60% of people with RA, blood tests confirm the presence of proteins called rheumatoid factor or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies. It is very important to control inflammation in the synovium to stop joint destruction and to treat RA to minimize damage to the heart, lungs, and eyes.
is a type of arthritis called a “spondyloarthropathy” that is a combination of psoriasis as well as pain and swelling in the large and small joints and sometimes the spine. It can cause complete swelling of a finger or toe a condition called “dactylitis.”
Other autoimmune diseases can cause inflammatory arthritis as a symptom. Examples include Sjogrens syndrome and lupus.
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How Can I Protect My Sore Hands
Here are some ways to protect the joints in your hands:
- Take notice of pain it can serve as a warning that your joints are being overworked. Rather than giving up an activity altogether, try taking regular rests during the activity and learning ways to manage pain. You will usually find you can still do the things you enjoy without discomfort.
- Use larger, stronger joints for example, carry your shopping bags over your shoulder rather than in your hands.
- Spread the load over several joints try carrying things with two hands.
- Reduce the effort you have to put in there is a wide range of labour-saving tools and equipment available. Buy pre-cut vegetables and meat to make cooking easier.
- Avoid gripping things tightly find out about gadgets that can make gripping and holding objects easier.
- See an occupational therapist to learn more ways to make daily tasks easier and take pressure off your joints.
- Visit an Independent Living Centre. These centres have a wide range of tools and equipment on display. You can get advice, including where to purchase equipment, in person or over the phone. Occupational therapists are also available at the centres to provide advice about equipment. Although you can drop in at anytime, it is preferred that you call the telephone enquiry service beforehand.
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How Is Arthritis Treated
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, your age, and your general health. It will also depend on how what type of arthritis you have, and how severe the condition is. A treatment plan is tailored to each person with his or her health care provider.
There is no cure for arthritis. The goal of treatment is often to limit pain and inflammation, and help ensure joint function. Treatment plans often use both short-term and long-term methods.
Short-term treatments include:
Medications. Short-term relief for pain and inflammation may include pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
Heat and cold. Pain may be eased by using moist heat or dry heat on the joint. Pain and swelling may be eased with cold on the joint.
Joint immobilization. The use of a splint or brace can help a joint rest and protect it from further injury.
Massage. The light massage of painful muscles may increase blood flow and bring warmth to the muscle.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation . Pain may be reduced with the use of a TENS device. The device sends mild, electrical pulses to nerve endings in the painful area. This blocks pain signals to the brain and changes pain perception.
Acupuncture. This is the use of thin needles that are inserted at specific points in the body. It may stimulate the release of natural, pain-relieving chemicals made by the nervous system. The procedure is done by a licensed health care provider.
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What Lifestyle Changes Can I Make To Relieve Symptoms
Several lifestyle changes can help ease your symptoms:
- If you smoke, make a plan to quit. Smoking weakens bones and organs. Quitting smoking can help keep your bones strong and improve mobility. If you want to quit, your doctor can help you create a cessation plan.
- Practice good posture. Having good back and foot support is important when sitting. Finding a chair thats higher than average also can make it easier to get on your feet. Avoid stooping to prevent stressing your joints. Make sure the objects you need to use regularly are at countertop level to achieve a good standing posture.
- Eat a balanced diet. A balanced diet that contains ample vitamin D is important. Vitamin D helps maintain good bone health.
- Manage your weight. Being overweight puts extra stress on the joints. Maintaining body weight or reducing it to a moderate level improves movement and can reduce RA symptoms.
Moving swollen joints can be painful. Still, regular exercise can help prevent joint swelling and pain.
Exercise can help you by:
- strengthening the muscles around the joints
- keeping bones strong and joints flexible
- improving overall strength, sleep patterns, and general health
You should always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. Some moderate exercises that your doctor may mention include:
What Is Reactive Arthritis
Reactive arthritis causes you to have extremely painful, swollen joints and can make you feel very tired. It can affect your joints after youve had an infection somewhere else in your body, such as a tummy bug, diarrhoea , or a throat infection.
The most common joints to be affected are the knees and ankles.
Its sometimes called Reiter syndrome and can affect people of any age, including children.
Reactive arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. Unlike other types of inflammatory arthritis, for many people reactive arthritis lasts a relatively short amount of time – usually around three months to a year.
However, some people find it lasts longer and can have random flare-ups years after they first get it.
The pain, swelling and extreme tiredness of reactive arthritis come after the initial infection. The infection itself may have been so mild you barely noticed it.
It is not yet known exactly why infections trigger reactive arthritis. One theory is that once your immune system has dealt with the infection, fragments of bacteria travel through your bloodstream and collect in the lining of your joints. Your immune system then reacts by causing joint inflammation.
Most people diagnosed with reactive arthritis find they have good days and bad days. It usually clears up within six months without leaving any lasting problems. However, a small number of people do go on to develop another type of arthritis that needs long-term treatment.
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Can Arthritis In The Hand Be Prevented
Arthritis cant be prevented. However, you can watch for symptoms of arthritis as you age and see your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your joints. You can also take steps to control factors that you can control. Eat healthy to nourish your body and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts more stress on your joints. Dont smoke. Smoking increases your risk of arthritis.
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