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What Causes Osteoarthritis in the Elderly?

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

As you may already know, “arthritis” is actually a term referring to many different conditions that mostly involve pain and swelling in the joints.

Some of these types of arthritis are rare and less well known. Other types, like rheumatoid arthritis, are more common, so more people are familiar with them.

In the UK, the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Many people already know an older person who has this condition.

But what sets osteoarthritis part from other types of arthritis? In this article, we’ll explore what causes osteoarthritis, how it can affect the elderly and more.

What is osteoarthritis?

Let’s start with a quick review of what a joint is.

It refers to any place in your body where two bones meet. There’s usually movement in this location, even if this movement is slight, such as when your rib cage moves to allow you to breathe in and out.

In addition to bones, a joint includes soft tissues like cartilage between the bone surfaces. These tissues allow the bones to move smoothly against one another without pain and friction.

However, over time, wear and tear can take its toll on a joint. Those soft tissues may wear away a little and become damaged. When there’s too little cartilage or damaged cartilage, the joint starts to become painful and sometimes makes crackling sounds when it’s moved. Swelling can result, too, as the body tries to handle this damage and protect itself.

This medical condition is called osteoarthritis.

What causes osteoarthritis?

So, we know that osteoarthritis is all about damage to the cartilage and soft lining of the joint. What causes the cartilage in a joint to wear away and become damaged in this way? Is it purely a matter of age?

Doctors don’t yet have a complete understanding of what causes osteoarthritis to occur in some joints and for some people and not others. But they do know some general causes and risk factors.

It’s true that age is a main osteoarthritis cause – osteoarthritis is generally a condition of older people.

But age isn’t the only factor. If a person has injured a joint, the injury can damage that cartilage in the joint, resulting in osteoarthritis. Likewise, if a joint is under strain due to obesity or hard manual work, this can also have a damaging effect and add to the risk of osteoarthritis.

How is the cause of osteoarthritis different from causes of other types of arthritis?

Just as there are many types of arthritis, there are many different causes that trigger arthritis to develop.

That being said, a significant proportion of other types of arthritis have origins in the immune system. For example, in rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the soft tissue that lines the joints. This causes inflammation that can then damage that soft tissue as well as the bones in the joint.

In contrast, the original cause of osteoarthritis isn’t the immune system. The core osteoarthritis cause is a physical problem – damaged cartilage – which can then prompt the immune system to get involved because there’s damage.

Given the cause of osteoarthritis, what treatments are available?

Unfortunately, medicine has not yet found a way to regrow the damaged cartilage and soft tissue in a joint with osteoarthritis. This means that doctors mainly focus on treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis – pain, swelling and stiffness.

Treatments such as warm and cold packs, physiotherapy and pain relievers can all be helpful in the fight against the pain osteoarthritis causes.

Usually, minor treatments like these are very helpful. In some cases, though, steroid injections are used to help reduce swelling, and surgeries like knee replacements may be beneficial too.

What lifestyle changes can help when a person has osteoarthritis?

In addition to these treatments, there are lifestyle steps that many people with osteoarthritis can benefit from.

Exercise and weight

Although older people with osteoarthritis may need to avoid some exercises, they should ask their doctor to recommend a programme of regular, gentle or moderate exercise that keeps their body strong. Partly, this is because when a joint is well supported by muscle, it’s less likely to be strained by a movement.

Staying within a healthy weight range is also important and can limit stress on damaged joints.

One-touch personal alarms

When older people experience stiffness and pain in arthritis joints, particularly those of the knee or ankle, they may begin to struggle with walking and with balance. Some elderly people also experience weakness in joints with arthritis. All of these factors can add up to the risk of a fall – something that can be dangerous if an older person experiences it alone with no-one around to help.

Yet many older people place great value on maintaining their independence. How can seniors with mobility problems due to osteoarthritis continue to live as independently possible, while also having a safety plan in place?

Getting a one-touch personal alarm can be a simple and effective solution to this problem. With just a single touch of a button, an older person can call for help in the case of a fall or another accident caused by stiffness and weakness in osteoarthritic joints.

For seniors who live in their own homes without carers, an alarm with 24/7 monitoring that connects to a response centre ensures that living independently doesn’t mean being “alone” when they need help. And for older people with family close by or in the same home, a family monitored personal alarm is a great choice.

Automatic fall detection alarms

Many personal alarms also include automatic fall detection. The alarm can sense when the wearer has fallen and will call for help by itself. This provides an extra layer of protection in case the wearer isn’t able to press a button.

For people with osteoarthritis, this type of personal alarm provides peace of mind, letting them know they’ll never be without help even in the worst-case scenario where a fall due to osteoarthritis stiffness or weakness leaves them unconscious.

SureSafe protection for older people with osteoarthritis

SureSafe is dedicated to providing simple, affordable and high-quality personal alarms for the elderly. We’re here to ensure older people with osteoarthritis and other mobility challenges don’t have to worry about falling or needing help and finding it’s not nearby. With a simple pendant or wrist alarm in place, seniors can continue their daily routines with peace of mind.

What other functions do our personal alarms offer for elderly people? Give our expert team a call at 0800 112 3201, and we’ll be happy to chat more about what our personal alarms can do for you or an older loved one with osteoarthritis. You can also reach out to us our live chat or request a call back.

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