Arthritis is Real and Painful Especially for the Older Adult

Why does Arthritis cause people so much pain According to the National Institutes of Health, “Arthritis” basically means joint inflammation. Anyone can be diagnosed with arthritis; however the elderly are most often the victim of …

Why does Arthritis cause people so much pain

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Arthritis” basically means joint inflammation. Anyone can be diagnosed with arthritis; however the elderly are most often the victim of this debilitating disease. The joints, which are placed between two bones, such as your elbow or knee, over time can develop pain, swelling, or stiffness, making hard for a person to easily move them. This pain develops into inflammation and can last for a long time if not treated properly.

For example, a common type of arthritis is Rheumatoid arthritis. It is a disease known to attack the immune system and the joints, by first attacking the lining of joints. When a person has too much uric acid in their blood, uric acid crystals will develop, causing gout to show up. A person with Infections or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can also lead to other types of arthritis. Now let’s talk about the signs and symptoms commonly associated with Arthritis.

Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis

There are many signs and symptoms that relate to arthritis. Sometimes the symptoms may also share similarity to other diseases. In fact, because of this, it is sometimes hard to know if a person has arthritis or something else is wrong. Arthritis can look like other conditions, so speaking to your primary care physician is recommended when these signs and symptoms occur. Symptoms will vary from person to person. However, here is a list of the most common symptoms to look for if you expect to have arthritis:

  • Joint pain- either or both the knee or hip pain
  • Swelling, especially around the joints
  • Redness in the joints
  • Tenderness in joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

What are the common types of Arthritis? 

Just like there are different signs and symptoms of arthritis, there is also many types of the disease as well. In some cases, it is possible to experience two types of arthritis at the same time. As a reminder, most elderly will experience arthritis, however, it can affect younger people as well; even children. Below is a list of the most common types of arthritis that people are diagnosed with. 


Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis, affecting millions of Americans nationwide. This type of arthritis occurs when the cartilage around the bones starts to wear down, which can happen over time. The cartilage stops protecting the bones and can begin to cause mild to severe joint pain for older adults. It can affect any part of the body; however, it affects often the joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. People with Osteoarthritis may experience pain or aching in the area affected, stiffness, decreased range of motion (or flexibility), bone spurs, and swelling.

How does a person treat this form of arthritis?

At the moment, there is no cure for OA. However, some doctors have experienced with different forms of therapies that have helped patients suffering with OA. Some have increased physical activity to help manage the symptoms of OA, while others have used physical therapy with strength-training exercises. The CDC encourages seniors facing OA to stay physically active as long as they can. It may also help reduce the chances of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. Sometimes medications and weight loss are also useful. Medical devices, such as canes, walkers, and crutches are used. Lastly, surgery is also an option, if the pain persists.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA, as it is often called, is another common chronic inflammatory disease. There are on average about 200,000 cases of RA per year in the United States. The signs and symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis is similar to OA, however, it may affect more than one area at a time. Common symptoms of this type of arthritis is pain or aching in more than one joint, stiffness in several joint areas, and tenderness and swelling in more than one joint. Many times it can affect both hands or knees at the same times. Other signs may be weight loss, fever, fatigue or tiredness, and occasionally weakness throughout the body.

What can individuals do to lessen their symptoms of RA?

The good news is that through specific medications and self-management strategies, RA can be very treatable and give a person their life back. Medications for RA can slow down the disease process and reduce inflammation and pain. These strategies include:

  • Quit smoking: that is, if you are a smoker.
  • Lose weight: extra pounds can cause the pain to be worse.
  • Increase or get better sleep: bad sleep habits can make RA uncomfortable.
  • Exercise regularly: this can help with all types of arthritis.
  • Improve dental hygiene: those with gum disease are at a higher risk of RA. 
  • Manage stress levels: Stay calm and relax, worrying about things is not healthy, physically and mentally. 

Childhood Arthritis

Although arthritis is well known in adults and the elderly, Children can also develop this. The medical term for Childhood arthritis is “Juvenile idiopathic arthritis”. Signs and symptoms of childhood arthritis is actually similar to adults. These include joint pain, swelling, fever, and stiffness. Some children may also experience a rash, fatigue (tiredness), loss of appetite, and inflammation of the eye. Having difficulty with daily living activities is also common, such as walking, dressing, and playing. In order to diagnose Childhood Arthritis in kids, a doctor will perform a physical exam. Physicians may also order lab or blood tests and X-rays to determine results. Looking at family health history is another way. 

How should parents help their children deal with childhood Arthritis?

When arthritis occurs in kids, it puts an emotional strain on the child. They may feel left out of certain social activities. Physical therapy and some medications can help ease the inflammation and pain of arthritis in children. Many parents are looking into Biologics. Biologics are advanced treatments of drugs that have helped children with the most severe effects of arthritis. With these biologics, children are less likely to be detained to using crutches, canes, or even a wheelchair.


The condition called Fibromyalgia is also a type of arthritis that affects senior citizens. Seniors can get pain and stiffness throughout their whole body with this form of arthritis. Other symptoms may include fatigue, headaches or migraines, and can also develop sleeping disorders, depression and anxiety. Some people can develop problems with thinking, memory, and concentration. Usually, a rheumatologist (doctor specialized in treatment of arthritis) can diagnose the affected person if they feel the senior has the condition. However, the treatment of fibromyalgia is often done in conjunction of other treatments. For example, those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and ankylosing spondylitis may also be dealing with fibromyalgia.

Dealing with Fibromyalgia

It’s important for those with fibromyalgia to stay physically fit. Seniors should try to get up to 150 minutes of exercise per week. Walking, swimming, or even biking are good ways to exercise when dealing with this form of arthritis. Doing regular exercises can also reduce any risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Complications of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can also cause pain, disability, and lower the quality of life in those diagnosed with it. Complications can sometimes arise as well. Older adults living with fibromyalgia may experience complications such as:

  • Extended hospital stays
  • Higher levels of depression
  • Higher risk of suicide
  • Higher risk of rheumatic conditions


According to the Mayo Clinic, Gout is another form of arthritis that tends to be very complex and common among male seniors. However, some women can also experience this as well. The symptoms and signs of gout can happen very suddenly. Examples of gout are intense pain, swelling, redness (especially around the big toe), and heat sensitivity. Many times the pain can be so intense that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or colchicine will be administered to deal with the flare ups. 

How can seniors treat Gout?

As mentioned above, anti-inflammatory drugs are suggested for treatment; however, there are other options. Some elderly choose to use self-management strategies to help with the pain of Gout. These strategies can be similar to self-managed strategies mentioned from the other types of arthritis conditions in this article. Diet and lifestyle changes is a good start. Limiting alcohol and red meat in your diet can also help. Sometimes living with Gout can affect your kidneys by causing kidney stones to appear. Especially that some types of medications can cause high levels of uric acid to develop in the body while dealing with Gout and other forms of arthritis. Talk to your primary care doctor if you suspect you may have gout. 


Our last type of arthritis being mentioned in this article is Lupus. Unlike Gout, it is more common among women than men. But that does not mean men can’t be diagnosed with it. Lupus is an immune disease that can damage any place within the body. Common signs and symptoms for a person with Lupus are muscle and joint pain, fever, rashes, chest pain, and sensitivity to light. Some people may also experience hair loss, kidney problems, memory issues, and extreme fatigue. Mouth sores and blood clotting issues also may develop if you have Lupus. Sometimes Anemia may develop due to the extreme fatigue, and for the lack of red blood cells to bring oxygen throughout your body. 

How can people lessen their symptoms of Lupus?

One of the best ways to manage Lupus is by staying on a good treatment plan and taking care of yourself the best you can. Here are some tips to help manage Lupus:

  • Learn how to tell if and when a flare is coming.
  • Limit the time you spend in the sun and in fluorescent and halogen light.
  • Make regular checkups with your doctor.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Build a strong support group of trusted and caring people.

How adult children or caregivers can help their loved ones deal with their variation of Arthritis illness

Taking care of a loved one with arthritis can be challenging at times. Especially since their many types of arthritis and a variety of signs and symptoms to look out for. It is sometimes hard to manage the healing process as well. Being there for your elderly parent or loved one suffering from arthritis is important. Each person will have a different experience with it. Their pain may be mild on some days and intense on other days. Their mobility may be limited, such as having difficulty walking, and moving their hands, arms, and legs; or trouble with fine motor skills. It is common to notice stiffness in the joints as well. 

Always show compassion and let the patient know you care. If you are the one with arthritis, do not be afraid to open up and share to your loved ones what you are going through. There are always plenty of support groups or systems that can provide you with many resources. Below are a few of these resources for people with arthritis.

Learn about their condition to understand what they are truly going through. Encourage loved ones to continue walking each day, even when it’s hard to. Physical therapy is often considered for those suffering from any form of arthritis. Caregivers can also help manage their medications, especially if the patient is also going through memory conditions, such as dementia. Some patients with arthritis feel very anxious and depressed, so caregivers should know when to step back and give the person some space. 

Resources for People with Arthritis

Arthritis Foundation– providing empowerment, research and assessment, and advocacy to those searching for help with Arthritis. 

Center for Disease Control and Prevention– everything you need about arthritis, as a patient or caregiver. 

AARP– looking for early signs of arthritis? Find it here.