Be Aware of Bone Diseases in the Elderly

Be Aware of 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. Here are some tips on what to look for and how to possibly prevent these diseases.



Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is a 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.



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 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.





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.


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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.



Exercise Tips for Seniors With Osteoporosis

Exercise is important for people with osteoporosis as it can help improve bone density in addition to strengthening the muscles. Osteoporosis can cause the bones to become brittle and lose density which makes them more likely to break, so it is important for people with osteoporosis to do everything they can to strengthen their bones. When exercising it is important for seniors to make sure that they are being safe so that they will not get injured. In this article we would like to offer some exercise safety tips for people with osteoporosis.


The first thing that people with osteoporosis should do is consult their doctor before beginning any exercise programs. Many doctors recommend a bone density test for those with osteoporosis which can be used to determine which exercises will be the most beneficial. A bone density test should ideally be done before starting any exercise programs because doctors can advise their patients which exercises are safe for them based on fracture risk, age, medical history, medications and physical condition. Beginning an exercise program before consulting a doctor can often lead to injuries from falls such as fractures or broken bones.


People with osteoporosis should also ask their doctor if it is safe for them to engage in high impact exercise. High impact exercises can often be dangerous for those with osteoporosis because the physical activity from high impact exercises puts excess pressure and strain on the body in areas such as the spine, hips and legs. Some examples of high impact exercises are running, jumping and jogging. Those with osteoporosis do not necessarily have to avoid these exercises at all cost but it is best to consult a doctor before engaging in any high impact activity. Slower movements are usually best for those with osteoporosis so seniors should try walking or using an elliptical machine at the gym. Those that are at risk for vertebral fractures should also avoid exercises that put too much stress on the spine. Many exercises that might seem safe because they are low impact can put excess stress on the spine and cause vertebral fractures. Some examples are golf, tennis, yoga, rowing and sit-ups because all of these activities require bending or twisting the spine. Regular activity is not usually harmful to the spine but adding extra stress beyond what a normal daily routine would require can potentially be harmful.


Another important safety tip to keep in mind is that seniors should pay attention to their body. Seniors that experience soreness for several days after exercising should ease up on their routine and work on building up to a more strenuous work out. Overworking the body can be very dangerous and can potentially cause injuries so seniors should make sure that they avoid overexerting themselves. Seniors who experience unusual pain or discomfort should visit their doctor to make sure that they have not injured themselves in any way.


People with osteoporosis should also consider visiting a physical therapist. Physical therapists can help by developing safe exercise plans for seniors and showing them how to properly do each exercise activity. Over time seniors can work with their physical therapists to increase the difficulty of their exercise routine. It is important that those with osteoporosis do not overexert themselves and seniors with a physical therapist helping them will be better equipped in knowing when they are ready to change their routine. Many physical therapists also have experience working with patients with osteoporosis so those that are newly diagnosed can definitely benefit from having extra assistance as they begin an exercise program. Family caregivers can help by talking to their loved one’s doctor to get recommendations for a good physical therapist and can also go with their loved one to meet the physical therapist so that they will be comfortable. Many people with osteoporosis benefit from weight training and physical therapists can act as a spotter for patients so that they will not drop their weights and get hurt. Family caregivers can also help their loved ones with this at home in between trips to the physical therapist.


Following these tips is a good way for people with osteoporosis to avoid injuring themselves. Family caregivers can help their loved ones with their exercise routine by exercising with them to keep them motivated and to help monitor their routine to prevent injury. It is important for those with osteoporosis to understand the specific limitations of their body so that they do not injure themselves while exercising. Those with further questions or concerns should always contact their doctor as it is always best to be cautious and safe.



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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