Everyone will grow old and experience gradual changes in their physical and cognitive capacity. Not to mention the number of diseases that come with old age.It’s still difficult to see your loved one not being able to do the things they used to do. Although these changes are inevitable, there are ways you can do to better improve the quality of your elderly loved ones’ lives.
For starters, it’d be better to know if they’re going suffering from serious neurological and spinal disorders prevalent among elderly people, especially those who are 40 and over. Besides that, you may also want to consider going through alternative treatments and medications offered by healthcare specialists like Dickinson Neurological Surgery and other similar providers to better address your concerns.
Spinal Disorders In People Over 40
While younger people can experience numerous health problems due to varying reasons, there’s no going around the fact that people over age 40 are more likely to suffer from age-related diseases. Specifically, people over 40 become more susceptible to neurological and spinal conditions that could significantly affect their normal functioning.
Geriatric spinal disorders, in particular, are some of the most common ailments that prove to be more difficult to manage, especially among older generations. Geriatric-related spinal disorders are commonly categorized into six major classifications: traumatic disorders, degenerative disc diseases, degenerative deformities, infections, spinal tumors, and inflammatory disorders.
Particularly, here are some of the most common spinal disorders people over 40 may develop:
Osteoarthritis—otherwise known as degenerative arthritis or facet joint arthritis—is a type of spinal disorder that develops over time as people start to grow old. Considered as one of the most common spinal disorders among elderly people, this condition is caused by weakening and the deterioration of the facet joints in the spine. Subsequently, it could result in cartilage erosion and osteoarthritis.
While symptoms of osteoarthritis may not be apparent in the earlier years, this could be characterized as persistent lower back pain and painful movement. It could also occur in the hands, hips, and knees.
Aside from that, people suffering from osteoarthritis may also experience any of the following:
- Leg pain
- Limited leg movements
- Lower back pain
- Mild to severe muscle cramps
- Numbness, weakness, and tingling sensations from the lower back into the legs
Apart from osteoarthritis, another common spinal condition you must know about is osteoporosis. While these two diseases are often confused with each other, it’s worth mentioning that osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the joint, while the latter is the loss of bone mass.
In its simplest definition, osteoporosis is an age-related metabolic disorder that’s primarily characterized by a gradual decrease in bone mass. It’s also known as the deterioration of bone tissues and disruption of bone microarchitecture. One of the most common drawbacks of having osteoporosis is the increased susceptibility to bone fractures.
As it’s often referred to as the ‘porous bone,’ osteoporosis mainly affects one’s bone mass, which then leads to lower bone mass and diminished bone strength. As a person continues to age, they could lose up to 1% of their bone mass every year.
- Disc Degeneration
Considered as the root cause of many degenerative changes in the spine, disc degeneration is also the type of spinal disorder that develops faster than other diseases. Do you notice your elderly loved one having difficulty walking and moving around? Do you know someone who struggles with chronic lower back pain? While such scenarios may seem normal in elders, note that those painful sensations might be early symptoms of disc degeneration in people over 40.
Internal disc degeneration (IDD), in particular, is the most common form of disc degeneration. Commonly known as annular tear injuries, this condition could cause mild to severe neck and backaches, as well as numbness in the legs and arms.
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a type of spinal disorder prevalent among elders characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canals in the lower back. In most cases, people have difficulty in standing and walking due to this condition. They could also feel persistent pain, which only diminishes when they lean forward or sit down.
Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis range from mild to severe pains and numbness in the legs, hips, and buttocks.
- Degenerative Spondylolisthesis
Degenerative spondylolisthesis is a condition often associated with the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis. While they may share some similarities, the previous ailment mainly affects the facet joints, ligaments, and bones of people aged 65.
As stated in the previous section, this condition can be distinguished by the gradual deterioration of bones and ligaments, as well as the weakening of joints in the spine. It could also result in the slip of the vertebra, which causes it to lose its alignment with other bones. Furthermore, degenerative spondylolisthesis could also affect one’s flexibility and could hinder them from doing simple activities.
Neurological Diseases In Elders
Aside from the risks of spinal disorders, people over 40 also become more susceptible to neurological diseases as they age. Not only that, but these people may also experience changes in their cognitive capacity over time. As people age, they may notice significant adjustments in their cognitive aspects, which is due to the changes in their brains and central nervous system (CNS).
While you may not be able to prevent these changes, there are ways you can do to help your elderly loved one who’s suffering from neurological maladies.To help you have a better understanding of this matter, here’s a list of the most common neurological diseases with which people over 40 have to deal:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Have you experienced seeing your loved one slowly forget things that are important to them such as names or dates? Have you noticed them having difficulty in performing things that were once normal to them? While you may think that those are common signs of aging, your loved one might be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Distinguished as the progressive, neurodegenerative ailment that affects one’s judgment, memory, and behavior, Alzheimer’s disease could also disrupt one’s short-term memory. This condition may also alter one’s normal functioning and make familiar tasks challenging to accomplish.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may also experience the following:
- Language deterioration
- Impaired memory, communication, and judgment
- Impaired cognitive processes and spatial awareness
- Emotional apathy
- Brain Aneurysm
Also called cerebral aneurysm or intracranial aneurysm, this particular condition mainly affects the blood vessels in one’s brain. This is also characterized by the deterioration and weakeningof the wall of a blood vessel in the brain. It’s also often referred to as the ‘subarachnoid hemorrhage’ in the brain.
This condition occurs when the aneurysm ruptures and bleeds into the spaces around the brain. A brain aneurysm occurs when blood vessel walls in the brain become too thin and cause a hemorrhagic stroke when they rupture.
Some of the most common symptoms of a brain aneurysm may include the following:
- Vision impairment
- Oculomotor dysfunction
- Eye pain
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), otherwise known as inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP), is a type of neurological condition that attacks the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Specifically, this occurs when one’s immune system affects the PNS and weakens the body’s nerve system.
One most common symptom of GBS is the weakening and tingling sensation in the legs, hips, and buttocks. In some cases, it could also occur in the arms and upper body. In worst-case scenarios, people struggling with GBS may not be able to use their muscles and have difficulty in their tendon reflexes. They may also suffer from paralysis, breathing difficulty, high blood pressure, and cardiac arrest.
- Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a type of neurological condition prevalent among people over 40 that could last long. It’s a chronic condition of the central nervous system (CNS) that primarily affects one’s cognitive capacity and communication skills.
In some cases, people suffering from MS may gradually lose their ability to write, speak, and walk. They may also experience visual impairment and impaired communication skills. Some of the most common underlying factors behind this condition may include these factors:
- Infectious agents (e.g., bacteria and viruses)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Parkinson’s Disease
Apart from Alzheimer’s disease, the second most common neurological disorder among elderly people is Parkinson’s disease. Characterized as the gradual stripping away of one’s motor abilities, this condition could hinder someone from performing basic tasks. This condition is also most likely to occur among people aged 65.
Some early signs of Parkinson’s disease may include these symptoms:
- Lack of balance
- Rigid limbs
- Walking abnormality
- Slower movements
Apart from that, note that Parkinson’s disease affects a certain part of the brain called the ‘substantia nigra,’ which is responsible for the production of dopamine. With the disruption in the manufacturing of chemicals that control one’s muscle movement, one becomes more at risk of mental and behavioral changes, depression, sleep problems, fatigue, and memory difficulties.
Also called a brain attack, a stroke is the condition that occurs when blood circulation in one’s brain is interrupted. Basically, the brain needs a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients to ensure proper functioning. However, when blood supply is cut off, one may experience life-threatening medical conditions like stroke.
This is due to a significant number of brain cells dying with the lack of blood and oxygen. While some people may not know it, stroke has two major classifications: ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. When brain cells die, several brain functions are also affected. People may experience difficulty in moving, speaking, eating, thinking, controlling bowel movements, managing emotions, and handling vital bodily functions.
Neuropathy is often distinguished as the weakening and numbness in the hands and feet. It’s also a neurological condition that could impede elderly people from executing daily tasks. Among the most prominent factors that could lead to this condition, the most common one is systemic diabetes.
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is considered a progressive neurological condition that primarily affects motor neurons. Such instances could result in the gradual deterioration of the body’s muscle functions.
- Myasthenia Gravis
Considered a chronic autoimmune disorder, myasthenia gravis is a condition that blocks the transmission of nerve signals to the muscles and hinders normal bodily function. This could also result in immobility, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
- Muscular Dystrophy
Commonly known as a genetic-related disease, muscular dystrophy is a neurological condition that’s linked to one’s genetic structure. People who have this kind of ailment may experience muscle weakness, muscle deterioration, and muscle contraction.
Coping With Age-Related Diseases
Accepting that your loved one is suffering from health diseases is never easy, let alone helping them get through their condition. While you may find this difficult to accomplish, know that there are now numerous alternatives and options you can consider obtaining for your purposes.
For starters, you might want to start with encouraging them to follow a balanced diet and motivate them to seek professional help. Aside from that, here are some things you can encourage your loved one to do to manage health issues that come with aging:
- Be Physically Fit: When dealing with spinal conditions, one of the most common alternatives one can do includes engaging in physical activities and maintaining a healthy body. However, you should still consider your loved one’s age and condition before introducing them to certain exercises. Walking slowly, doing stretches, and other types of light exercises are some ideal activities for your elderly loved one.
- Sign Up For Physical Therapy: When you feel like doing exercise isn’t enough, you may also refer your loved one to a physician for physical therapy sessions. Having a physician look after your family member’s condition could significantly speed up their recovery and help them bounce back from their condition.
- Take Medications: Besides regular exercise and physical therapy, you may also consider taking your elderly loved one to a doctor. They could recommend the appropriate medication for your family member and examine their condition. Medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are some common pain relievers for spinal diseases.
- Undergo Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: People suffering from neurological disorders may also consider undergoing treatments like cognitive therapy. Otherwise known as ‘talk therapy,’ this particular treatment option primarily focuses on helping patients determine the cause of their condition, reorient them about their thoughts and behavior regarding their situation, and help them manage psychogenic impairments.
Managing signs of spinal and neurological disorders is never easy, let alone witnessing your elderly loved one dealing with them. While these illnesses could sound intimidating to handle, there are numerous alternatives you can consider to help your family member. These may include encouraging them to consult with a specialist, influencing them to lead a healthy lifestyle, and motivating them to pursue recovery. With this post, treating age-related diseases could be much easier.