Joint Disorders in the Elderly Homework Helpers

As people grow old, they are likely to experience joint pain or arthritis. However, doctors say this does not have to be the case. Early lifestyle and healthy changes can go a long way in avoiding joint disorders.

Joint Disorders in the Elderly Homework Helpers

Joint Disorders in the Elderly Homework Helpers

The human skeleton offers support to the body and gives it a structure. Joints can be described as the part where bones join. Joints allow for movement of the body by making the skeleton flexible.

Bones at the joint are not in direct contact with each other. They are cushioned by cartilage, fluid, and synovial membranes around. The body relies on muscles for the strength and force needed to move.

Bones, muscles, and joint changes end up affecting how a person walks and their posture. This effect may cause them to move slowly and become weak.

Changes that come with aging

Loss of bone density and bone mass is common in the elderly. It is more common in women who are past menopause. As people age, their bones lose important minerals such as calcium. The human spine is made up of several bones also known as vertebrae. A gel-like cushion is found between these bones. This cushion is known as a disk.

As people age, these disks lose fluid to become thinner. This causes the trunk of the body to shorten. Bones become thinner due to loss of mineral content. The spinal cord/column becomes compressed and curved causing changes in posture. Foot arches tend to disappear causing a slight decrease in height.

Loss of minerals causes the long bones in the legs and arms to become brittle. However, their length remains the same. This s the reason the legs and arms tend to appear longer compared to the trunk that shortens.

As people age, the fluid found in the joints reduces. This causes joints to become less flexible and stiff. Cartilage at the joints starts to rub together and will eventually wear away. In joints such as the shoulder, there may be mineral deposits.

Degenerative changes occur at the knee and hip joints as a result of cartilage loss. Joints found in fingers lose cartilage causing the bones to become slightly thicker. A common change is the swelling of the joints known as osteophytes.

Effects of Old Age Changes

With old age, bones tend to be more brittle meaning they can easily break. Shortening of the spine and the trunk causes a decrease in the overall height. Pain, stiffness, deformity, and inflammation may occur as a result of joints breaking down.

A person’s posture may also become stooped. Hips and knees become more flexed. The pelvis widens, the neck tilts, and the shoulders may become narrow. Movement slows down and becomes limited.

The arms don’t swing as much as they used to. All these changes cause reduced energy thereby causing older people to easily get tired. Lastly, endurance and strength change and muscle loss resulting in reduced strength.

Common Joint Disorders in the Elderly

  • Osteoporosisthis is a problem more common in older women. It causes bones to break easily. Their movement might be reduced due to pain from the fractures caused by compression.

Types of Pain in the Elderly

Joint pain depends on factors such as the history of trauma or injury, the level of physical activity of an individual, family history, and environmental factors. There are two types of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritisthis is the most common. It is also known as wear and tear arthritis partially because it occurs as a result of wearing away of the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones causing the bones to rub on each other.

There are two types of osteoarthritis;

  1. Primary osteoarthritis – this type of osteoarthritis is caused by the degeneration of cartilage between bones. Cartilage degenerates as a result of reduced water content. This weakens the cartilage and makes it more susceptible to damage.
  2. Secondary osteoarthritis – this type of osteoarthritis is caused by disease, genetic factors, injury, and not old age.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

Symptoms include stiffness and pain in the affected joints during and after movement.  Swelling and tenderness are also common. Affected areas may experience a lack of flexibility with a grating sensation that comes with cracking or clicking sounds.

In the beginning, symptoms mostly occur in the morning but as the condition gets worse, a person may experience these symptoms even when they are resting.

Osteoarthritis may worsen because of the following;

  • Delayed treatment – other joints may be forced to compensate for those not working and this may extend the damage to other joints.
  • Weak muscles – it is recommended to engage in low-impact exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding joints.
  • Dehydration – the cartilage is made of water. Dehydration may worsen joint pain.
  • Overweight – the rate of wear and tear of joint cartilage may increase if a person is overweight.

Treatment of osteoarthritis

  • Non-surgical treatment – non-surgical treatment includes physiotherapy to improve flexibility and strengthen muscles. Anti-inflammatory and painkillers are used to reduce pain. In case drugs and physiotherapy do not help; intra-articular hyaluronic acid injections are used.
  • Surgery – surgery is used when the condition is severe and the non-surgical alternatives are not helpful. Common surgery procedures include knee arthroscopy and arthroplasty. Arthrodesis is also done although it is not as common as the other two. It involves the removal of the arthritic joint and the fusion of two bones.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – this is an inflammatory condition whereby the immune system attacks tissues lining the joints. Symptoms of rheumatoid include stiff, warm, tender, and swollen joints accompanied by loss of appetite, fatigue, and fever.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the smaller joints found at the hands, feet, ankles, and wrists. However, severe rheumatoid arthritis can affect larger joints in the knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows.

Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by stiffness, pain, swelling, and redness, especially in the morning.  Untreated rheumatoid arthritis causes deformity of joints and may hinder a person from performing simple tasks such as gripping cutlery or writing.

Treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, if aggressive treatment is sought early enough, the impact can be greatly reduced so that the quality of life of a person is not affected.

  • Non-surgical treatment – physiotherapy can be done to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. Anti-inflammatory and painkillers are used to reduce pain.
  • Surgery – surgery may help reduce pain, correct deformities and restore affected joints. Surgical procedures done include knee arthroscopy, synovectomy, and arthrodesis.
  • Patellar knee tendon tears – patellar knee tendons can affect anyone but most athletes and older people above 65 years. The patellar tendon connects the knee cap to the shin bone. It is common to experience a partial tear and complete rupture in the patellar tendon.

Symptoms of patellar tendon tear

Symptoms of a ruptured patellar tendon are swelling of the knee, pain, and tenderness. Pain and inflammation may worsen as the damage increases.

Complete rupture of the knee-tendon is characterized by a pop. A person may also experience instability and difficulty in walking. The knee cap may also move to the thigh. A patellar knee tendon tear may worsen due to:

  • Delayed treatment – delaying treatment even for as much as 6 weeks may complicate treatment. Repairing of a tendon may become more difficult if treatment is delayed. If treatment is delayed for a long period, doctors may have to do tendon reconstruction.

Treatment of a patellar tendon tear

Minor tears – minor tears may require the knee to be put in a brace for 4-8 weeks. Physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and painkillers may also be prescribed.

Severe tears and ruptures – severe tears and ruptures require immediate surgical repair. If it is impossible to repair them, reconstruction is done.  Damaged tendons are replaced with tendons from other parts of the body or a donor.

Prevention of joint disorders in the elderly

One of the most effective ways of slowing down or preventing muscle, bone, and joint issues is exercising. Physical exercises help to maintain flexibility, balance, and strength. Regular m exercising helps the bones to remain strong.

Smokers are advised to quit smoking since smoking is harmful to the body and can affect joints. Overweight individuals are advised to watch their weight since being overweight has a great impact on joints especially those at the knees.

It is advisable to engage in low-impact physical exercises such as biking, walking swimming. Weight training can also help build and strengthen muscles that support joints. It is also important to avoid sugary drinks since they can enhance inflammation and increase the chance of gaining weight which increases the risk for joint disorders.

Conclusion

The elderly experience several joint disorders that come as a result of old age. However, a healthy lifestyle and diet that is inclusive of vegetables and fresh fruits and getting enough sleep can help reduce the chances of developing joint disorders.

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Joint Disorders in the Elderly Homework Helpers

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