Arthritis and depression are some of the most disabling conditions in old age. When both the problems exist in the same individual, they can significantly burden the patient, their families, and society.
Depression is one of the common problems in old age. Due to the pain and disability caused by arthritis, depression has become a common problem in people suffering from almost all forms of arthritis.
How does depression in older people differ from younger people?
Depression affects most older people, but not everyone goes for any treatment. Sometimes the symptoms of depression are mistaken as a result of various medical conditions and the side effects of the medications used to treat them.
Most older people do not accept that they are depressed, and most often, it goes unnoticed and untreated. They think that the symptoms of depression are typical of old age and life stress. Some older people also deny treatments due to medical expenses and not being a burden to their families.
Depression in older people is different from that of younger adults in all aspects. Depression accompanies other medical conditions and disabilities in most older people. It is usually left untreated, and hence it lasts longer. Clinical depression is one of the significant risk factors for cardiac diseases and death in older people. The symptoms and signs of depression vary considerably in younger patients. Some of the symptoms expressed in old age are:
- Feeling tired and irritated
- Sleeping troubles
- Feeling confused or disoriented
- Loss of attention
- Lack of concentration
- Slow movements
- Feeling hopeless or guilty
- Severe aches and pains
- Teary, or sad all the time
- Hopeless about your life
- lack of interest in eating or eating too much
- Complains too much or is very silent
- Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and dizziness
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis refers to the pain and swelling of a joint. The most common symptoms are swelling in the joints, severe pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. There are many different types of arthritis, and it is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. The most common types of arthritis are:
Gout: It causes painful swelling and stiffness of joints. The big toe is most commonly affected, but it can affect other joints too. The patients experience a sudden flare-up of symptoms followed by asymptomatic periods.
Osteoarthritis (OA): This is one of the most common forms of arthritis affecting the old age group. It causes the wearing down of the articular cartilage between bones over a period of time. The most common symptoms are joint pain, stiffness, and tenderness of affected joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): It is a chronic inflammatory, an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. The symptoms are painful swelling of the joints, especially the wrists, knees, elbows, ankles, hips, and shoulders, and restriction of movements. There is marked stiffness and swelling of the smaller joints in the morning.
Risk factors for depression in older people with arthritis
Some of the risk factors for depression in older people are:
- Living alone or in social isolation
- Being a women
- Lack of a support
- Alcoholism and abuse of other substances
- Death of a family member or friends
- Poverty with disability
- Being jobless
- Stressful life events
- Certain medical conditions
- Certain medications
- Financial dependence
- Physical disability
- Family history of major depression
- Fear and anxiety of death
- Presence of chronic or severe pain
Depression and arthritis: Are they linked or interconnected?
Arthritis is a chronic condition that has to be managed for the whole life once diagnosed. There are many types of arthritis, the symptoms of which can be stressful and impact daily life and living quality. The pain associated with arthritis can be very depressing as it adds more stress to the body and mind. Because of this, the level of stress hormones increases in the body. The more a person experiences, the more depressed or anxious they become. In the same way, the more the person is depressed, the more is the pain. It is vice versa, and it goes both ways.
Because of the inflammation, certain chemicals in the body increase and affect the action of other hormones leading to depression and anxiety. That is why arthritis and depression commonly occur together. However, it is not clear whether depression and anxiety in people with arthritis result from physical symptoms such as pain or if depression is another symptom caused by the chronic pain and inflammation of arthritis. But studies have reported that depression is more prevalent among individuals with arthritis than those without arthritis.
Some studies suggest that specific pro-inflammatory biomarkers such as cytokines and C-reactive protein may be associated with depression. The risk of developing depression seems to increase in individuals with an inflammatory illness like arthritis. Some studies have also reported that depression and arthritis may be linked through a dysfunctional neuro-endocrine system.
How do we treat older people with depression and arthritis?
Many studies and researches recommend that older patients with arthritis should also be screened for depression and anxiety. They also suggest that the treatment is more effective when both the conditions are addressed simultaneously.
Though there is clear evidence of arthritis and depression existing together, older people with arthritis are not usually screened or treated for depression. When depression is left out while treating arthritis, the patient may be less responsive to the arthritis treatment. When depression is not treated, it might lead to:
- Increased pain and disabilities
- Loss of productivity at work
- Increased risk of heart diseases and stroke
- Problems with interpersonal relationship
- Sexual dysfunctions
Older people with depression, anxiety, and a chronic, painful condition like arthritis, find life very hard and are prone to take extreme measures. Proper medication, emotional support, and personal care can help treat depression and arthritis. Treating depression may have a positive effect on the mind and body and consequently, the person may feel a reduction in the symptoms of arthritis.
Subsequently, this improves the person’s quality of life and functional status. So the best treatment approach is the one that combines depression screening and assessment of pain in patients with arthritis in older people.
How can you manage depression?
- It is imperative to get immediate medical treatment when symptoms of anxiety or depression appear in a person’s life. In addition, self-management programs and physical activities may address both mental health and arthritis.
- Self-management workshops teach skills to help people cope with pain and stress and prepare them to make healthy lifestyle choices.
- Counseling can be beneficial along with medications. It can be tried with talk therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for better results.
- Meet with friends and talk to peer groups. They can make you feel that you are not alone and that you are not the only one suffering from problems in life.
- Be active and keep a regular physical activity schedule. It will help reduce the stiffness and pain in the joints and increase the mobility of the joints. Exercising or walking also relaxes the mind and uplifts the mood.
- Take proper meals at regular intervals. Avoid foods that trigger swelling and pain or other problems in your body. Add lots of fruits, vegetables, and fish rich in protein, fiber and essential fatty acids.
Homeopathic medicines for the treatment of depression
Homeopathy remains one of the safest alternative treatments available for treating various diseases and disorders. In homeopathy, the medicines are selected by considering the whole entity of a person. A comprehensive treatment approach is very much possible in homeopathy since it takes all the signs and symptoms(both mental and physical) into account while choosing a remedy.
Thus homeopathy offers a complete treatment to a person and not just their parts. Below are a few best homeopathic medicines for depression, a few most used homeopathic medicines for anxiety, and some symptom-based homeopathic medicines for joint pain and arthritis.
Some of the best homeopathic medicines for depression are Arsenicum Album, Aurum metallicum, Calcarea Carbonica, Causticum, Cimicifuga, Ignatia Amara, Kali Phosphoricum, Lachesis muta, Natrum Carbonicum, Natrum Muraticum, Phosphoric Acid, Pulsatilla Nigricans, Sepia, Staphysagria, etc.
Homeopathic medicines for the treatment of anxiety
A few of the best homeopathic medicines for treating anxiety are Kali Phosphoricum, Aconite Napellus, Argentum Nitricum, Arsenicum Album, Calcarea Carbonica, and Gelsemium sempervirens, Phosphorous, Ignatia Amara, Lilium Tigrinum, Natrum Muriaticum, Pulsatilla, Sepia, Lycopodium, Stramonium, Silicea, Kali Arsenicosum, etc.
Homeopathic medicines for treating joint pains and arthritis
Some of the deep acting homeopathic remedies for joint pain and arthritis are Aconitum Napellus, Arnica, Belladonna, Bryonia, Calcarea Phosphoricum, Ledum Palustre, Pulsatilla, Rhus toxicodendron, Calcarea Carbonica, Caulophyllum Thalictroides, Causticum, Cimicifuga Racemosa, Dulcamara, Ruta Graveolens, Colchicum, Nux Vomica, Actea Spicata, Chinum Sulph, etc.
In homeopathy, the medicines are selected and prescribed according to the individual’s unique symptoms. Thousands of remedies are available in homeopathy, but only a few will suit a particular person’s symptoms.
A homeopath not only considers the physical symptoms but also the state of mind while choosing a medicine. So it is always best to take homeopathic treatment under the advice of a registered homeopathic physician.