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A Guide To Recognizing Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Elderly

With age, a person can develop rheumatoid arthritis. This can be a painful phenomenon that can make it difficult for an elderly person to perform daily tasks. They can have pain in their joints such as their hands, feet, knees, and fingers. This can make it challenging for an elderly person to function as they once did.

Rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly is often characterized as early-onset rheumatoid arthritis once a person hits 60 years of age or older. This inflammatory disease can target a person’s joint tissue and make it painful to move and hold objects.

rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly - Infographic

Signs And Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

While doctors can test for rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly, its signs and symptoms need to be recognized in order to give your parent the care that they need for this disease. Most of the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis occur in the joint areas, but other signs can develop as well.

Some of the most frequent signs that a person is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint tenderness
  • Reduced motion
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Limping
  • Fever

While these signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can present themselves differently in each patient, they cause uncomfortable pain in most and need to be treated to reduce their side effects.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not widely known, but it does occur in women more often than men. Women that have never given birth are more susceptible to the disease while age can exacerbate the symptoms and cause more difficulties for an individual.

Rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly is thought to be caused by a person’s family history as well as the environment they are exposed to. It is commonly thought to be a virus or bacteria that attacks the joint linings, but researchers are unable to pinpoint what exactly causes the inflammation and how to prevent it from occurring.

Doctors are certain that smoking causes rheumatoid arthritis as a person gets older. It can also progress the symptoms of the disease and make it more uncomfortable for an individual that has been diagnosed with the illness.

Research also suggests that weight loss can help reduce the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly. Overweight individuals are more at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis as they get older and with a healthy diet and weight loss, they can reduce its onset.

Other ways that patients can help reduce the probability of having rheumatoid arthritis is by making regular trips to the dentist. There have been links between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly which can be prevented by regular dentist visits and proper teeth brushing.

Treatment For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Treating rheumatoid arthritis can be successful with the right approach. Medications can be used to reduce inflammation, fatigue, and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly. This can help reduce the signs and symptoms that an individual experiences and can reduce the effects of pain in the joint area.

While care needs to be taken when prescribing these medications as they can create unwanted side effects if your parent is already taking medication for another illness. Simply taking an ibuprofen medication can help ease the pain from rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly.

More advanced symptoms may require a prescription of Methotrexate. This drug seems to be tolerable by most patients and eliminates the side effects of having Corticosteroid drugs in the body – another treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Most researchers agree that there is no way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis from taking over in the elderly. It is suggested that regular treatment of any signs of the disease early on can help reduce the pain from rheumatoid arthritis and make a patient more comfortable. It is recommended that treatment begins within the first three to six months of seeing signs of rheumatoid arthritis in an individual.

As a caregiver to your parent or patient, recognizing rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly can help them get the treatment, they need to ease their pain. It may be difficult or challenging for an individual to move around as they once did and they may have pain that is unbearable at times. Regular treatment of the disease can aid their movement and help make them more comfortable on a daily basis.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/the-causes-of-rheumatoid-arthritis

http://healthguides.healthgrades.com/taking-control-of-ra/treatment-for-elderly-onset-rheumatoid-arthritis

http://www.medicinenet.com/rheumatoid_arthritis_early_symptoms/article.htm