Arthritis and Injury
Falls and fall-related injuries are among the most serious and most common medical problems experienced by the elderly, including those with arthritis. Hip fractures can threaten the independence and survival of persons with arthritis and the elderly.
How big is the problem?
In Illinois in 2003, more than 2.2 million adults had doctor-diagnosed arthritis (23.9 percent). An additional 1.4 million (15.2 percent) reported having possible arthritis (Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2003).
In terms of economic costs, according to Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), United States, 2003, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total cost of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions (AORC) in Illinois was $2.7 billion in 2003 (approximately $1.6 billion direct costs). Illinois ranks 17th in the nation.
Falls are the third leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States. Seventy-five percent of these falls occur in the older adult population.
Falls account for more than 2 million injuries, nearly 400,000 hospital admissions and 9,000 deaths. Health care costs for falls and rehabilitation now average $70 billion dollars a year.
Who is at risk?
Arthritis and injuries are closely interrelated with arthritis being a risk factor for fall-related injuries in the elderly. Conversely, injury to the knee or hip joint or repeated overuse of joints can put a person at increased risk for osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. According to one study, a single knee injury early in life can put a person at five times the risk for osteoarthritis in adulthood; likewise a hip injury could more than triple the risk (Arthritis Foundation). Side effects of prescribed medications and improper use of canes and walkers may further increase the risk of falling.
Non-modifiable risk factors for fall related injuries include:
Modifiable risk factors for fall-related injuries include:
How can it be prevented?
Improving arthritis related pain, swelling, stiffness and joint mobility will decrease the chances of fall-related injuries. Modifiable factors responsible for fall-related injuries should be addressed.
Support groups and arthritis education can help people learn about the disease and how to cope with it. Participants learn practical tips, such as how to:
Preventive measures to avoid external factors related to falls:
Appropriate arthritis management can help people with arthritis live healthy and independent lives. Several evidence-based self-management classes are offered through the Arthritis Foundation including the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program and the Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program. Research shows that patients who take part in their own care report less pain, make fewer visits to their doctor and enjoy a better quality of life.
CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The U.S. Administration on Aging
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases