A new study has found that pain from arthritis is often suffered during the last few years of life. In one-quarter of the people studied, with the pain from arthritis taking precedence over the pain that can come with cancer.
Because of its ability to damage the quality of life, the authors of the research said that the study indicates arthritis should be considered a serious disease.
In the study, data was analyzed from interviews of 4,703 women and men who were aged 50 and older and died while enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, a continuous longitudinal study that is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.
Twenty-five percent of the participants had substantial pain in the last two years of life, but fifty percent had pain in the last four months of life. The commonness of pain in the last month of life was sixty percent among patients who had arthritis, as compared to twenty-six percent among the patients who did not have arthritis. Surprisingly, the cause of death, like heart disease or cancer, is many times not what bothers the patient the most.
The authors of the new study suggest that doctors need to pay close attention to the different causes of pain in sick, older patients and refer them to hospices or pain clinics that can calm their suffering. They wrote, “despite increasing recognition that pain in later life constitutes a major public health issue, older persons are dramatically under-represented in specialty pain clinics.”
The study was published in the November 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.