Bone Diseases in the Elderly

Bone diseases in the elderly can be very serious and can cause pain, fractures or even bone cancer in patients. As we age, our bone density decreases which can cause bone disease or fractures to occur. Osteoporosis and Paget’s disease are the two most commonly seen bone diseases in the elderly, but there are others to look for as well. We at Carefect Home Care Services would like to share some tips on what to look for and how to possibly prevent these diseases.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease found in seniors and is caused by the thinning of the bones. Osteoporosis is called a “silent disease” because most seniors are unaware that they have osteoporosis until they fracture a bone. Osteoporosis can be prevented by making sure that your loved one gets enough calcium and vitamin D and exercises on a regular basis. Many elderly women experience sudden back pain from a compression fracture caused by osteoporosis, so this is a good warning sign to watch out for. Many seniors also appear to be losing height as their bones thin, so family caregivers should monitor closely their loved one’s height if they are at risk for osteoporosis.  If your loved one starts to experience the symptoms listed above, they should visit their doctor to discuss treatment options.

Paget’s Disease

Paget’s disease is the second most common bone disease found in the elderly and it affects the formation of bones in the body. Normal bones are constantly remodeling, but people with Paget’s disease have an abnormal remodeling process. People with Paget’s disease experience an excessive amount of bone removal followed by even more excessive bone formation which results in larger bones being formed. Paget’s disease can cause the new bones to be softer or deformed which can result in pain and fractures. Very rarely, patients will experience a malignant transformation of the bone which will result in a bone tumor. Most people that suffer from Paget’s disease can easily manage their disease at home with anti-inflammatory drugs. Those that suffer from a serious case of Paget’s disease can have surgery to help treat their disease. Seniors who experience changes in bowel or bladder functioning should seek immediate care as this can be a result of spinal cord and nerve root damage caused by the abnormal bone reformation.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is another common problem found in the elderly although it affects the joints instead of the bones. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage at the ends of the bones wears down and causes the bones to have a hard time moving smoothly. Osteoarthritis can cause movements to be very stiff and painful because the cartilage is not there to protect the bones. Researchers believe that nearly all seniors over age 75 have osteoarthritis in at least one joint, so seniors should make sure that their bones are in good health.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is another joint disease and is caused by inflammation of the joints. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include painful, swollen or deformed joints and painful and stiff movements. Rheumatoid arthritis is usually developed before age 45 but it can be chronic and can cause problems for the elderly population as well. Keeping the body healthy is the best way to manage and prevent rheumatoid arthritis because the swelling is usually caused by an infection in the body. Seniors can modify their daily activities and take medication to help reduce pain.

Preventive Measures

Seniors who experience any fractures or breaks should visit their doctor to be tested for bone disease. Treating or monitoring bone disease in the elderly can greatly decrease their risk for pain and fractures. Decrease in bone density in seniors can cause many seniors to have brittle bones even if they do not have any type of bone disease, so it is important to keep an eye on your loved ones even if they are not diagnosed with a bone disease. Seniors should make sure that they are doing all that they can to keep their bones strong, such as getting enough calcium and vitamin D and exercising regularly because that is the best way for them to prevent bone disease. When exercising, it is important for seniors to make sure that they are choosing activities that are safe for them and will not cause them to fall or get hurt as this can also result in breaks or fractures. Many seniors suffer from broken bones as a result of falling, so family caregivers should make sure that their loved ones have an adequate assistance if they have trouble walking. Seniors with osteoporosis or Paget’s disease might want to consider getting a walker or cane to steady their walking to keep themselves from getting hurt.

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