When an older adult has rheumatoid arthritis (RA), they are familiar with the usual pain and swelling that occurs with the condition. However, there may be times with their symptoms are different or when new symptoms crop up. When that happens, it’s important to pay attention and report symptom changes to the senior’s doctor.
Below are some RA symptoms that may indicate a problem with medication or complications of the condition.
Digestive Problems or Abdominal Pain
Having RA increases the older adult’s risk of developing an ulcer, bleeding in the stomach, and other digestive conditions. These problems can be caused by medications taken to treat RA symptoms or by the inflammation associated with the condition. If your aging family member complains of stomach pains or experiences diarrhea or constipation, talk to the doctor.
RA can cause lung complications, including infections and scarring. These complications may cause difficulty breathing or a persistent cough. Lung symptoms should be reported to the doctor, especially if a cough lasts for a week or longer.
Some of the medications that are used to treat RA affect the immune system, so people with RA may be unable to fight off illness as well as a healthy person. A fever is a sign of illness or infection, which can get worse quickly in people with impaired immune systems. A fever is cause to seek medical care quickly.
Studies indicate that people with RA are at a greater risk for death due to heart disease. Contact the doctor if your senior family member is experiencing chest pain, especially if it happens during activity. Following a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and exercise can help reduce risks for heart disease.
Feelings of Numbness
The swelling in joints affected by RA can press against nerves. This can cause tingling feelings or numbness, especially in the elbows, wrists, and ankles. Numbness may also be a symptom of vasculitis, which is an inflammation of the blood vessels, a condition that commonly occurs with RA.
If your aging family member has RA, a home health care provider can help them to manage RA symptoms and watch for new symptoms to appear. A home health care provider can allow the person to rest when their joints are painful while they handle the housework, cooking, and laundry. Home health care providers can also help RA sufferers to move safely around the house, preventing injuries due to falls.