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Arthritis Flare Up Symptoms & Causes in the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

If you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis as an older person, then you probably already know that flares are an unavoidable part of the condition. But what causes an arthritis flare up, how can you avoid it, and what can you do once you’re experiencing a flare up?

In this post, we’ll dig deeper into the topic of arthritis flares and what elderly arthritis patients can do to manage them.

What is an arthritis flare up?

Briefly put, an arthritis flare up is when arthritis symptoms get worse for a period of time, despite the fact that the patient hasn’t reduced medication for arthritis. An older person can find their arthritis flare lasts for just a day or for as long as several months.

What causes an arthritis flare up in the elderly?

As you’ll likely know, there are many different types of arthritis. Flares work differently in each type. In this article, we’ll cover both of the main types of arthritis, which are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, elderly people can have many other types of arthritis that can also experience flares, such as psoriatic arthritis, gout and more.

Osteoarthritis flare ups in the elderly

Osteoarthritis can be thought of as a condition resulting from wear and tear on the joints, which is why it’s common in the elderly. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in joints starts to thin or break down because of damage to the joint or just usage over time. Without this smooth and soft cartilage, bones aren’t properly protected as the joint moves.

An osteoarthritis flare up in an older person is most often caused by the patient’s own movement. Hard or repetitive motions or an injury to the joint can cause a flare up. Sometimes weather changes can also trigger a flare.

Rheumatoid arthritis flare ups in the elderly

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. Unlike osteoarthritis, its primary cause isn’t a physical problem in the joint. What causes an arthritis flare up in this case is the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacking a joint just as it attacks enemies like bacteria and viruses.

This means that rheumatoid arthritis flare ups are often connected to the immune system. If an elderly person is feeling worn down from tiredness or stress, this might spark a flare. Or if an older person’s immune system is fighting off a cold or some other virus or bacteria elsewhere in the body, it might be more active in attacking a joint as well, causing a flare.

However, we don’t always know what causes an arthritis flare up. Sometimes there seems to be no clear reason why a flare has occurred – which can be frustrating for the patient.

Arthritis flare up symptoms in the elderly

Some older people who have arthritis may experience few symptoms outside a flare up. Others might experience symptoms all the time, but the same symptoms get more intense during a flare up.

For elderly people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis flare up symptoms typically include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

Elderly people with rheumatoid arthritis may have other additional symptoms. These typically include:

  • Tiredness
  • Signs of inflammation like warmth
  • Stiffness for a long time in the morning, which is a classic symptom of rheumatoid arthritis

What might doctors advise an older person to do during an arthritis flare up?

Firstly, it’s important to state that anyone concerned about their health during a flare up should speak to a medical professional. Staying in touch with your doctor about rheumatoid arthritis flare ups is particularly important because uncontrolled rheumatoid arthritis can cause more damage to your joints.

Doctors will typically advise an elderly person with arthritis that there are a number of steps to take that can help manage a flare.

Pain management for older people during an arthritis flare up

It’s not a good idea to change dosages of medication or take a new medication without a doctor’s advice, so an elderly person experiencing a lot of arthritis pain during a flare up should talk to their doctor about their pain management options.

Other than medication, some older people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis find that hot or cold pads or packs can help with pain.

Activity for seniors during an arthritis flare up

During a flare up, it’s key to avoid any movements that will put additional stress on the affected joint. However, elderly people with arthritis generally shouldn’t give up activity entirely during a flare up, as this may cause their strength and mobility to dwindle. It’s best to talk to a GP or physiotherapist about how you can safely continue to move your body during an arthritis flare up.

If you’re feeling additional stiffness and pain in the lower half of your body, you might also be concerned about the risk of falling. A fall alarm for the elderly can ease worries about this because it detects a fall and calls for help automatically, day or night – the person wearing the alarm doesn’t need to press a button or do anything.

Steps that can help elderly people during a rheumatoid arthritis flare up

As we’ve mentioned, rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis because it’s an autoimmune condition, related to the immune system which interacts with the entire body.

That’s why older rheumatoid arthritis patients need to take care of their whole body’s wellbeing during an arthritis flare up. This includes:

  • Trying to get good rest and sleep
  • Eating healthy and nutritious meals
  • Focusing on mental health and reducing stress as much as possible.

How SureSafe can help you stay active as an older person during an arthritis flare

Arthritis flare up symptoms can cause pain and distress for older people with arthritis. However, activities like gentle walking can be beneficial for many elderly arthritis patients because they prevent stiffness and muscle wasting and can provide a big mental health boost too.

If you or an elderly loved one are worried about the risk of falls while an arthritis flare in your hip, knee or ankle is causing stiffness, pain or weakness, a personal alarm can be a great solution. A mobile alarm with GPS tracking works while the wearer is out and about, so there’s no need to stay home to feel safe. The alarm can still call for help from anywhere in case of a fall. And a personal alarm with 24/7 monitoring allows the wearer to move around with confidence at any time, even at night, knowing that help will be on the way in case of a fall.

Ready to learn more about SureSafe’s highly reviewed and easy to use personal alarms for the elderly? There are numerous ways to get in touch with our expert team. You can give us a call at 0800 112 3201, try our live chat, or request a call back.

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