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Osteoporosis is a common medical condition, affecting more than 3 million people in the UK. It rarely causes pain by itself, but it makes the bones fragile and therefore more likely to break. Currently, more than 500,000 people receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures every year as a result of osteoporosis. Today's article is a helpful guide to osteoporosis. It's important to learn the symptoms and causes of common conditions like osteoporosis, so you can spot the signs and get the best treatment quickly.

What is Osteoporosis? 

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens your bones, making them more fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over time. Often, people have osteoporosis for months or even years before they get a diagnosis, or even notice any symptoms.

Generally, you'll be diagnosed after a minor fall or sudden impact has caused a bone fracture. The most common bone injuries are wrist or hip fractures. Until a fracture occurs, osteoporosis is often a painless condition.

Causes of Osteoporosis

Although our bone density naturally decreases as we get older, losing too much bone mass can lead to osteoporosis.

Bone is actually living tissue. Throughout life, the body breaks down old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone. However, around your late thirties, the body starts to remove bone tissue faster than it can replace it. This is what causes bone density to decrease, which can lead to osteoporosis in some cases.

The Royal Osteoporosis Society says that women are more at risk of osteoporosis than men for several reasons. Firstly, bone density tends to decrease quite quickly after the menopause (this is because the levels of oestrogen, which helps to keep the bones strong, decrease rapidly). Furthermore, women tend to live longer than men, and are therefore more likely to feel the effects of age on bone strength.

However, osteoporosis doesn't just affect older women. Men, younger women, and children can also develop the condition.

There are several other factors which can increase your risk of osteoporosis:

  • Heavy drinking
  • Smoking
  • Low body weight
  • A family history of fractures
  • Long-term use of high-dose oral corticosteroids
  • Medical conditions such as inflammatory, hormone-related, and malabsorption problems
  • Having Rheumatoid Arthritis

Credit: National Osteoporosis Society

 

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

In most cases, the first symptom will be a bone fracture, especially from a minor knock or bump. Wrist and hip fractures are particularly common.

You might also notice back pain and muscles spasms, alongside a noticeable change to your posture or height. These are signs of spinal fractures, which can also indicate osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, there are relatively few warning signs of osteoporosis. Therefore, it's important to know whether you belong to any at-risk groups. If you have any of the risk factors we've discussed above, consider making an appointment with your GP. They can give you advice to help lower your risk and refer you for tests if necessary.

Diagnosis

If there is a chance that you might have osteoporosis, your GP will conduct a few tests and scans. Firstly, they might use online software to assess your risk of breaking a bone. The algorithms in these programmes give a 10-year probability of hip fractures and a 10-year probability of a major fracture in the spine, hip, shoulder or forearm.

Your doctor might also refer you for a DEXA scan, which will measure your bone density. This scan is a short, painless procedure which takes less than 20 minutes, according to the NHS.

They will then calculate the difference between your bone density and that of a healthy young adult. This difference is called a T score. A particularly low T score (-2.5 or lower) is a strong indicator of osteoporosis.

Treatment for Osteoporosis

The treatment for osteoporosis aims to strengthen bones and prevent fractures. However, not everybody will need treatment. It will depend on the results of your DEXA scan, as well as a few other factors like age, sex, and previous injuries.

There are several bone-strengthening medications available. These help to maintain your bone density, thereby reducing the risk of fractures. Your doctor will advise you which kind of medication is best for you.

In addition to any medication, it's also important to make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. These are both very important when it comes to bone strength. People with osteoporosis might need more calcium than usual - your doctor may recommend that you take calcium supplements. You might also benefit from taking vitamin D supplements in the winter.

How to Prevent Osteoporosis

Although the ageing process is inevitable, there are ways to reduce the chance of osteoporosis and keep your bones healthy. Here are some things to consider:

Regular Exercise  

Staying active is essential to good health - including bone strength. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are particularly effective for maintaining bone density, which is key to preventing osteoporosis. Examples of this kind of exercise include walking, press-ups, and weightlifting. For more specific exercise recommendations, see the NHS website.

Healthy Eating

As with most medical conditions, having a healthy, balanced diet is a great prevention technique. Eating healthily can also help you to avoid other serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and forms of cancer.

As we've mentioned in this article, calcium and vitamin D are particularly important in the fight against osteoporosis. Examples of calcium-rich foods include dried fruit, yoghurt, tofu, and leafy green vegetables.

Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, liver, red meat, oily fish, fortified foods such as fat spreads, and dietary supplements.

No Smoking and Less Drinking 

Smoking can lead to osteoporosis, as well as dozens of life-threatening conditions. Research has shown that smoking can interfere with bone-building cells, and can result in earlier menopause for women. If you are a smoker, there has never been a better time to quit. See our stop smoking guide or check out the NHS guidance here.

Drinking too much alcohol is also a risk factor for fractures and osteoporosis. In addition, drinking makes you unsteady on your feet, which means you're more likely to fall and break a bone. The best way of reducing the risk here is to stick to the government's recommended alcohol limit of no more than 14 units per week.

Plenty of Sunshine 

We know that vitamin D is important for bone strength. Luckily, you can get most of the vitamin D you need from sunlight in summer months. From late March to late September, make sure to spend plenty of time in daylight - a lunchtime walk is a great start.

Take the Test

If you're curious about your risk of osteoporosis, you can take an online test here. Once you have answered all of the questions, you will receive a personalised report. This report will include advice about maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis. It's completely free, so well worth doing!

VAT Exemption

Having osteoporosis qualifies you for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm system from Lifeline24. This means you will not need to pay any VAT whatsoever on your Lifeline alarm.

For a person to qualify they must meet certain criteria set by HMRC. These criteria state that the customer must have a long-term illness, a terminal illness, or a disability to qualify.

Staying Safe at Home

personal alarm can help protect people who suffer from medical conditions like osteoporosis. If you ever have a fall or need assistance, all you need to do is press the button on your pendant. This will send an alert through to our 24-hour Response Team, who will respond immediately and arrange for help to come to your home.

For more information on our life-saving personal alarms, please speak to one of our friendly advisors on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

For further information about other common medical conditions, please see our in-depth guide. 

 

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 27th June 2022 to reflect current information.

Asthma is a long-term medical condition that affects the lungs and airways. With millions of children and adults affected, it is one of the most common medical conditions in the United Kingdom.

According to Asthma UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for the condition. Of those affected, 4.3 million cases are adults and 1.1 million are children. These figures mean that asthma affects one in every 11 people, and one in five households across the country.

"Every 10 seconds somebody is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK. Each day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack." - Asthma UK.

Sadly, more than 1,300 people in England died as a result of asthma in 2018 (the most recent available data). These statistics can be quite frightening, but research has shown that two thirds of asthma-related deaths are preventable with the right treatment and understanding.

You may have seen our in-depth guide to the medical conditions which affect older people. Today’s article focuses specifically on asthma. We'll look at the symptoms, treatments, and possible causes of the condition.

What Causes Asthma?

Sometimes, substances like pollen, dust, or smoke can irritate our airways. However, the airways of asthmatic people are already inflamed and sensitive to begin with. Therefore, irritants (triggers) can cause several reactions in sufferers:

  • Inflammation and swelling of the airways
  • A build-up of sticky mucus or phlegm in the airways
  • Tightening of muscles around the airways

All of these reactions narrow the space through which air can flow, which is what causes many of asthma's core symptoms.

These reactions can occur as a result of asthma triggers, or at random. Common triggers also include animal fur, pollution, chest infections, certain medications, and even the weather. Asthma UK recognises several different categories of asthma:

  • Allergic: triggered by allergens like pollen and dust
  • Seasonal: flares up at certain points in the year, often depending on weather and temperature
  • Occupational: a result of the work you do
  • Non-allergic: a rarer form of asthma, unrelated to allergy triggers

Luckily, medication can be very effective at managing symptoms. However, around 4% of asthmatic people have 'severe asthma' which does not respond to the usual medication.

Anyone's asthma can change over time, becoming more or less severe. Lots of mildly asthmatic children often find that their symptoms subside as they get older.

Learn more about the causes and triggers

Symptoms

There are several symptoms of asthma, which vary from mild to more severe. Not everybody will experience every symptom all the time. The most common symptoms are:

  • Wheezing - A whistling sound whilst you're breathing
  • Breathlessness
  • A tight chest
  • Coughing

Sometimes, your symptoms can become worse for a short period of time. This is commonly known as an asthma attack. These attacks can happen suddenly or gradually over a few days. They can be fatal, so it's very important to be aware of the signs.

Symptoms of an Asthma Attack

  • Your usual symptoms (coughing, wheezing, tight chest) are getting worse.
  • Your reliever inhaler is not helping.
  • You struggle to speak, eat, or sleep due to breathlessness.
  • Your breath is getting faster/you feel like you can't catch your breath.

Learn more about the symptoms

What To Do If You Suffer an Asthma Attack

Every 10 seconds, someone in the UK has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. Research has shown that, with the correct treatment, you can control your symptoms and reduce the risk.

If you think you're having an asthma attack you need to follow these steps, suggested by the NHS:

  1. Sit upright and try to take slow, steady breaths. Do not lie down. Try to stay calm; panicking can make it worse.
  2. Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs.
  3. Call 999 immediately if you don't have your inhaler with you, if you feel worse despite using your inhaler, if you don't feel any better after 10 puffs, or if you're worried at any point.
  4. If an ambulance has not arrived after 15 minutes, repeat Step 2.

If your symptoms improve and you don't require hospital treatment, you should still make an urgent appointment to see your GP or an asthma nurse.

Should you go to hospital, you will need to see your GP within 48 hours of being discharged. 1 in 6 people who receive treatment in hospital for an asthma attack need hospital care again within two weeks. Therefore, it's very important to discuss how to reduce your risk.

Credit to Asthma UK

 

Treatment

There is currently no cure for asthma. However, there are several effective treatments that help alleviate symptoms.

The most common form of treatment is an inhaler. There are two main types of inhalers:

  • Reliever Inhaler - These can relieve symptoms for a short period of time. They are commonly blue.
  • Preventer Inhaler - These reduce the inflammation in your breathing tubes. They need to be used twice daily in order to be most effective. They are commonly brown.

Some patients may be prescribed a 'combination inhaler'. This includes a combination of a long-acting reliever and a corticosteroid preventer.

By using your inhaler correctly, you can manage your condition and reduce the chances of an attack. Taking your inhaler correctly will help with everyday tasks, such as walking up and down the stairs.

Your doctor or nurse will be able to show you the correct way to use your inhaler. You need to use the right technique for the device to actually work effectively.

If your inhalers aren't helping with your condition, your GP might prescribe additional medicines to help. The most common tablets used to help treat asthma include:

  • Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists - These are taken once a day to help stop your airways from becoming inflamed. These tablets are also available as granules or syrup for children.
  • Theophyllines - These help relax the muscles around the airways, helping you breathe more easily.
  • Steroids - These can be used as a short-term treatment for an asthma attack or a long-term treatment to control your symptoms.

Learn more about the treatment available

Credit to Compound Interest

 

Living with Asthma

With the correct treatment, most asthmatic people can live normal lives. The most important factor is to keep your symptoms under control, by using your inhalers correctly and avoiding your triggers.

It's important to work closely with your GP or nurse to make sure you're using the proper inhaler technique. You should also be aware that some other medicines may put you at risk. For example, some aspirin and ibuprofen may not be suitable for asthma sufferers. Always check the packet.

If you smoke, it is crucial that you quit immediately. Smoking is a known asthma trigger, which can cause severe and frequent symptoms. For help quitting, see our Stop Smoking guide.

Exercise

Did you know that sports stars David Beckham and Bradley Wiggins have asthma? Regular exercise is a great way to manage your condition.

By raising your heart rate, you boost your lung power and improve stamina. While you might feel breathless in the short term, frequent exercise can actually reduce how often you feel breathless overall. A healthy fitness regime also reduces the chances of a cold or cough, due to a boost to your immune system.

If you're a little apprehensive, or if your asthma has been playing up recently, it may be best to stick to moderate-intensity activities. These include swimming, walking, yoga, or team sports which allow you to take a rest between bursts of movement.

Before taking part, you should also make sure that:

  • You have your inhaler with you.
  • The people you are exercising/playing with know that you have asthma.
  • You warm up and cool down thoroughly.

If you notice your symptoms spiking at any point, you should stop, take your inhaler, and wait until you feel better before re-joining your activity.

If you are overweight, research indicates that losing weight could help you manage your condition. Losing excess weight can reduce symptoms and lower your risk of an asthma attack. In addition, losing weight and having a healthy lifestyle can also reduce your risk of other conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Staying Safe At Home

personal alarm can protect people who suffer from medical conditions such as asthma. If one of our alarm users feels unwell or suffers a fall, they simply need to press their pendant button. Our 24/7 Emergency Response Team will answer the call and send help immediately.

For more information on our life-saving personal alarms, please speak to one of our friendly advisors on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our Contact Us form and we will contact you as soon as possible.

Read More: 20 Common Medical Conditions Affecting Elderly People

VAT Exemption

Having asthma qualifies you for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm from Lifeline24. If you are asthmatic (or you are buying an alarm for somebody else who is) then you will not have to pay any VAT on your Lifeline alarm.

 

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 13th June 2022 to reflect current information.

Around 26 million people in the UK have at least one long-term medical condition. This includes nearly 50% of people aged 65-74 and nearly two-thirds of those over 85. What’s more, the UK’s ageing population means these numbers will only increase in the coming years. In fact, experts predict that by 2030, around seven million older people will have at least one long-term illness or health problem. The ageing population and the increasing rates of long-term medical conditions have had a huge impact on the NHS.

Falls are a particular cause for concern. Even throughout the pandemic, falls remain the leading cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people. A fall can have a serious impact on long-term health, especially for those who suffer from a medical condition.

What Is a Medical Condition?

"Medical condition" is a very broad term. It can refer to any kind of disease, disorder, injury, or illness, including mental illnesses. The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from at least one medical condition. Some medical conditions are fairly mild and may not make much difference to your day-to-day life, while other medical conditions require intensive treatment.

But what are the most common medical conditions in the UK?

Common Medical Conditions in Older People

Advances in healthcare have helped people in the UK live longer than ever before. As a result, medical conditions have become a more common feature of older life. Thankfully, there is more support than ever for people living with the most common health conditions.

It’s important for us all to understand the most common medical conditions so that we are able to spot the symptoms and get medical assistance when we need it. Furthermore, we should understand how to prevent common illnesses and how to live with them.

Here’s our guide to the most common medical conditions affecting older people.

Table of Contents

Arthritis Asthma Blindness Cancer
Chronic Bronchitis Chronic Kidney Disease Coronary Heart Disease Deep Vein Thrombosis
Dementia Diabetes Epilepsy High Cholesterol
Hypertension Motor Neurone Disease Multiple Sclerosis Osteoporosis
Paget’s Disease of Bone Parkinson’s Disease Shingles Stroke

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common medical conditions among older people, affecting 10 million people in the UK. It causes joint pain and inflammation, which can restrict your movement.

There are two common types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Among older people, osteoarthritis is more common. This is because osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear; after all, the older we are, the more we have used our joints. Around eight million people in the UK have this type of arthritis. In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the lining of the joints.

Arthritis Symptoms

Symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • Restricted movement
  • Inflammation in and around the joints

"Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. It affects people of all ages, including children.” – NHS Choices

The risk of a fall increases if you have arthritis. Therefore, people with medical conditions like arthritis (especially those who live alone) should ensure that they can always call for help if they need it. A personal alarm system lets you call for help 24/7. You simply push the red button on your pendant, worn around the wrist or neck, and our 24/7 Response Team will respond. For extra peace of mind, there is the Fall Detector alarm, which will call the Response Team automatically when it detects a fall.

A member of the team will assess your situation before taking the appropriate action. This usually means contacting your loved ones and informing them that you require urgent assistance. The team can also contact the emergency services when required.

Read More – Arthritis: A Useful Guide

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2. Asthma

Asthma occurs when the body’s airways are sensitive to allergens and become inflamed. This inflammation can cause a painful and frightening asthma attack, which causes the airway muscles to tighten and narrow, making it hard to breathe. Most people can manage their asthma very effectively with proper medication. However, asthma left unchecked can be fatal. On average, 3 people die every day from an asthma attack in the UK.

Asthma Symptoms

Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing
  • A tight sensation in the chest
  • Breathlessness

Older people are susceptible to asthma and should be on the lookout for symptoms, especially during the winter months. Asthma can worsen during and after a bout of cold or flu.

Having a Personal Alarm could make a crucial difference if you suffer from an asthma attack. You can press your pendant button, which will instantly raise an alert with our Response Team. They will communicate with you over the loudspeaker and arrange for help immediately. Should you collapse or fall while wearing a Fall Detector, your device will send an alert call automatically.

Read More – Asthma: A Useful Guide

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3. Blindness

Around two million people are living with sight loss here in the UK, with 360,000 people registered as blind or partially sighted.

The leading cause of blindness is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects more than 600,000 people in the UK. AMD occurs when deposits build up on the macula (a small area at the centre of the retina). AMD can also be caused by abnormal blood vessels developing under the macula.

Other medical conditions can cause sight loss too – such as glaucoma and diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy damages the retina, leading to sight loss. Treatments for sight loss vary depending on the cause, but may include:

Early diagnosis of potential blindness is vital, so please seek medical attention if you notice any change to your vision. Of course, we should all have regular eye tests to ensure that our eyesight is healthy. The NHS recommends that people have an eye test every two years at the very least.

Sight loss can be very challenging to deal with. Luckily, there are several excellent support groups out there that can help – such as the RNIB.

Read More – Blindness: A Useful Guide

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4. Cancer

Did you know that 1 in 2 people will develop a form of cancer at some point in their lives? There are over 200 types of cancer, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer.

Cancer is a disease where cells in the body replicate abnormally and form a mass known as a tumour. These abnormal cells multiply, either causing the tumour to grow or the cancerous cells to spread through the bloodstream.

Cancer Symptoms

Here are some common cancer symptoms to look out for:

  • Finding an unexpected lump
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained blood in the stool, urine, when coughing, or when vomiting

Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer. If you are a smoker, there is no time like the present to quit smoking.

Thanks to medical research, cancer survival rates have been steadily improving for decades. Sadly, the survival rate is generally lower for older people. Therefore, it’s very important to catch symptoms early and begin treatment as soon as possible. Please take a look at our guide to coping with cancer, an article we hope will help those affected by this condition.

Read More – Cancer: A Useful Guide

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20 Most Common Medical Conditions - Cancer

 

5. Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a condition that affects the lungs and airways. It’s one of several lung conditions which come under the umbrella of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Most cases of bronchitis develop as a result of an infection that irritates the bronchi (airways), causing an overproduction of mucus. The body tries to shift this excess mucus via coughing. Chronic bronchitis is when this coughing continues daily for several months of the year, for two years or more.

Bronchitis Symptoms

Look out for the common symptoms of chronic bronchitis, which include:

  • Hacking cough, which may bring up mucus
  • A sore throat
  • Headaches
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains in your chest

Smoking makes you more likely to develop chronic bronchitis and other COPD conditions. Therefore, the most important thing to do if diagnosed with chronic bronchitis is to quit smoking. Cigarettes will only make the condition worse and it will take longer to disappear. Alongside this, you should also ensure that you’re eating a healthy diet to help prevent lung infections in the first place.

If you have chronic bronchitis, you should make sure that you get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and treat any headaches or fever with paracetamol or ibuprofen – but don’t use the latter if you have asthma.

Read More – Bronchitis: A Useful Guide

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6. Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is quite common among older people here in the UK. There are several other medical conditions that affect the kidneys and can lead to chronic kidney disease. These conditions include kidney infections, high blood pressurediabetes and kidney inflammation.

According to Kidney Care UK, around 64,000 people in the UK are receiving treatment for kidney failure – this is stage 5 chronic kidney disease, where kidney function is less than 15%.

Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms

Unfortunately, symptoms for the early stages of CKD are quite rare. In most cases, the condition is diagnosed during a blood or urine test for other medical conditions. As the condition progresses, you may suffer from:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick
  • Blood in your urine
  • Swollen ankles, feet or hands
  • Tiredness

If you suffer from any of the symptoms above or notice any other worrying changes to your body, you should see your GP as soon as possible.

There is no cure for CKD right now, but there are treatments which can relieve the symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening. Options include medication, living a healthy lifestyle, dialysis or a kidney transplant in severe cases.

Read More – Chronic Kidney Disease: A Useful Guide

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7. Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death here in the UK. According to the NHS, coronary heart disease (CHD) is what happens when fatty substances build up in the arteries, blocking the blood supply to the heart.

Certain lifestyle choices and other medical conditions can cause CHD. Risk factors include:

If you are at risk of CHD, your doctor might carry out an assessment. This could involve a treadmill test and one or more different scans. They’ll also ask you questions about your family history and lifestyle. The main symptoms of coronary heart disease are anginaheart attacks and heart failure.

In order to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, you might need to make important lifestyle changes. For example, everyone should take part in regular exercise and eat a balanced diet. Those who smoke should stop smoking as soon as possible. There are also several types of medication or surgery options to help treat CHD.

The knock-on effects of CHD can appear out of nowhere and can be fatal. If you have a Personal Alarm, you can raise the alarm as soon as you feel any chest pain, and help will be on its way within seconds. Remember, a Fall Detector Pendant will detect a sudden fall and automatically raise an alarm for you. Having this technology can make a huge difference should you suffer from a heart attack.

Read More – Coronary Heart Disease: A Useful Guide

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8. Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in your deep veins, most commonly in one of your legs. This medical condition is most common in people over the age of 40, and can also lead to further complications, including pulmonary embolism.

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of DVT. These include obesity, blood vessel damage, being inactive for long periods of time, and a family history of blood clots.

In addition, smoking can cause serious damage to blood vessels. To lower your risk of deep vein thrombosis and several other medical conditions, you should seriously consider quitting.

DVT Symptoms

Here are the most common symptoms of deep vein thrombosis:

  1. Pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs
  2. A heavy ache in the affected area
  3. Red skin – particularly at the back of your leg, below the knee
  4. Warm skin in the area of the clot
  5. A mild fever

One common treatment involves blood-thinning medication, which makes it harder for the blood to clot and prevents existing clots from increasing in size. Alongside your medication, you will also need to make some lifestyle changes.

Read More – Deep Vein Thrombosis: A Useful Guide

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9. Dementia

Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects memory and overall brain function. It is relatively common in older people, affecting around 1 in 14 people over 65. This increases to 1 in 6 people over the age of 80.

The most common and well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia is another type of dementia that develops as a result of a stroke or blood vessel deterioration.

Dementia Symptoms

Symptoms of dementia include:

  • Difficulty remembering recent events.
  • Problems in conversation – struggling to follow along or to find the right words.
  • Difficulty judging distance.
  • Forgetting where you are or what date it is.

Nearly one million people in the UK live with dementia, 90% of whom are 65 or over. If you notice any of the symptoms above, you should visit your GP as soon as possible, especially if you are over 65. An early diagnosis will help you get the best results from treatment while giving you more time to prepare for the future.

The symptoms of dementia can be frightening for you and your loved ones alike. Personal Alarms can offer peace of mind. If you ever get disoriented or become confused about your surroundings, you’ll be able to press your pendant for help. Our expert Response Team are trained to provide reassurance and take action quickly.

Read More – A Guide To The Different Types of Dementia

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10. Diabetes

Older people are susceptible to developing diabetes. In fact, half of all people with diabetes in the UK are over 65. Diabetes is a lifelong condition, which occurs when the body doesn’t have enough insulin. This could be because the pancreas isn’t producing enough, or because the body is resistant to the insulin it produces. Diabetes affects an astonishing 3.9 million people here in the United Kingdom.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, where the body attacks the cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is when the body does not produce enough insulin or the insulin it makes doesn’t work properly. This is the more common type of diabetes – affecting around 90% of diabetics.

Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem among older people, and a large proportion of newly diagnosed diabetics are from the older generation. In fact, one in 10 people over 40 are now living with this medical condition.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

To help prevent type 2 diabetes, the NHS encourages the following lifestyle changes:

  1. Healthy eating Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet and reducing sugar and fat intake
  2. Maintaining a healthy weight If you are carrying excess weight, lose it gradually by eating healthily and exercising frequently
  3. Exercising regularly It is important to stay active; perform both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities

Read More – Diabetes: A Useful Guide

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20 Most Common Medical Conditions - Diabetes

Credit: World Health Organization

 

11. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can cause seizures. Did you know epilepsy is most common in those at opposite ends of the age spectrum? It is most prevalent in young children and people aged over 65. In fact, 25% of people with epilepsy are over 65. Every day, 87 people are diagnosed with the condition.

Epilepsy can be caused by head injuries, strokes, tumours, or certain infections. You’ll normally receive a diagnosis if you’ve had two or more seizures. This is because many people have a one-off epileptic seizure during their lifetime.

There are several medications that can help to control epilepsy. In fact, these medications help eight out of every 10 people with epilepsy to control their seizures. If you have epilepsy, you should follow these steps to manage your condition:

  • Stay Healthy Take part in regular exercise and eat a balanced diet
  • Sleep Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep
  • Avoid Alcohol Avoid excessive drinking

Please remember that if you have a seizure and you currently hold a driving licence, you have a legal responsibility to inform the Driving and Vehicle Licence Authority (DVLA).

A Fall Detector could be particularly useful to sufferers of epilepsy and similar medical conditions. This device will automatically raise an alert if it detects a fall. Our Response Team will then arrange help immediately.

Read More – Epilepsy: A Useful Guide

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12. High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is created by your liver and is also found in some foods. Lipoproteins in the blood carry cholesterol around the body. There are two types of lipoproteins: low density and high density. You might have heard of "good" and "bad" cholesterol – "good" refers to high-density lipoproteins while "bad" refers to low-density lipoproteins.

High cholesterol is a medical condition that occurs when there is too much "bad" cholesterol in the body. A number of lifestyle choices and medical conditions can lead to high cholesterol. These include:

  • Smoking
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • A family history of stroke or heart disease

Age can also increase your chances of having high cholesterol, as the risk of your arteries narrowing is much higher. The best way to lower high cholesterol or prevent it in the first place is by living as healthily as possible.

This includes staying active by exercising or taking part in sporting activitieseating healthy foodslowering your alcohol intake and trying to stop smoking.

Read More – Cholesterol: A Useful Guide

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13. Hypertension

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the most common medical conditions in the UK. According to the NHS, more than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure. However, many people won’t even realise it. The only way to find out is by having your blood pressure checked. Therefore, it’s very important to have regular check-ups with your GP, especially if you are in a high-risk group.

High Blood Pressure Symptoms

Noticeable symptoms of hypertension are rare. In fact, the only time someone will notice symptoms of hypertension is when their blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels. This is known as a hypertensive crisis. Symptoms of hypertensive crisis include severe headaches and anxiety, chest pain and an irregular heartbeat.

Hypertension puts significant strain on the blood vessels, heart, and other vital organs like the kidneys. As a result, people with high blood pressure are at higher risk of the following medical conditions:

  • Heart Disease
  • Heart Attacks
  • Kidney Disease
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Strokes
  • Heart Failure

Here are some ways to prevent and manage high blood pressure:

  • Watching your diet – Avoid foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Replace them with fruits and vegetables
  • Leading an active lifestyle – Begin adding more exercise to your day. Start by walking regularly and then move onto jogging if you can
  • Stop smoking – Nicotine raises your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke, quitting is the best decision you can make for your health

The NHS recommends that all adults over 40 get their blood pressure checked at least every five years.

With a Personal Alarm, if you have chest pains or feel unwell, you can raise an instant alert by pressing your red button. Our Response Team will contact your loved ones and/or the ambulance service to come and assist you.

Read More – Hypertension: A Useful Guide

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14. Motor Neurone Disease

Motor neurone disease is a rare neurological condition where the nervous system degenerates over time. It leads to muscle weakness and loss of mobility. Motor neurone disease, also known as ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), occurs when the motor neurons that control activities like walking and speaking stop working.

MND Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing (and sometimes excessive salivation)
  • A weakened grip, usually in one hand at first
  • Small twitches and flickers of movement, known as fasciculations
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech, known as dysarthria

The causes of motor neurone disease are still unknown. However, we do know that it affects more men than women and that it occurs most often in people between the ages of 50 and 70. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for MND, but several treatments can minimise symptoms and slow the condition’s progress. Despite being one of the rarer medical conditions on this list, it’s relatively well-known, thanks to high-profile MND patients such as Stephen Hawking.

Read More – Motor Neurone Disease: A Useful Guide

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15. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. The main symptoms are a wide range of problems with vision, movement and balance.

There are currently more than 100,000 people in the UK living with the condition. The MS Society estimates that 5,000 more people are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis each year. That’s approximately 14 people every day. This means that around one in every 600 people currently has multiple sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

Symptoms of MS include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fatigue

Currently, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, although research into possible cures is ongoing. In the meantime, there are a number of treatments that can help to control the condition. Treatment options will depend on the individual’s symptoms among other factors.

A personal alarm system can be a great reassurance for people with multiple sclerosis and their families. If you need help in an emergency, you need only press your Lifeline Alarm button. Our 24/7 Response Team will send help quickly, giving you the confidence you need to keep living independently.

Read More – Multiple Sclerosis: A Useful Guide

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16. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is one of the most common medical conditions affecting older people. More than three million people across the UK have osteoporosis, with more than 500,000 people receiving hospital treatment for fragility fractures every year as a result. This condition develops slowly over time and is often left undiagnosed until a fall causes a bone fracture.

This is because osteoporosis weakens the bones. Losing bone mass is a natural part of the ageing process, however, some people lose density faster than normal.

Women are more likely to have osteoporosis because they lose bone density rapidly after going through menopause. Luckily, certain medications can help to strengthen the bones. Many people also take calcium and vitamin D supplements to maintain bone health.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, certain exercises can help combat the condition:

  • Weight-bearing exercises – Activities that involve moving against gravity whilst staying upright. High-impact examples like skipping and tennis help to build bones and keep them strong. Low-impact examples such as using a stair machine or treadmill are safer alternatives for those who already have bone problems
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises – Activities that involve moving the body, weights or other forms of resistance against gravity. Examples include lifting weights and using elastic exercise bands

Osteoporosis and Falls

Falls are quite common among people with medical conditions like osteoporosis. Should you suffer from a fall, you may be unable to get back up or reach for your phone to call for assistance. Having a pendant button around your wrist or neck allows you to get help quickly after a fall. For added security, we would suggest the fall detector plan. This advanced device activates your alarm when it detects a fall.

Read More – Osteoporosis: A Useful Guide

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17. Paget’s Disease of Bone

Paget’s disease of bone disrupts the normal cycle of bone renewal. It’s triggered by a flaw in the bone cell regeneration system, which causes bone weakness and even bone deformity.

Paget’s disease is a common bone condition that usually affects the pelvis, spine, and other areas of the body. It is a very common condition in the UK, mostly affecting people over the age of 50. The condition affects 8% of men and 5% of women by the age of 80.

Paget's Disease Symptoms

Symptoms include the following:

  • Constant, dull bone pain
  • Shooting pain that travels along the body
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Loss of movement in a part of the body

These symptoms of Paget’s disease can trigger a fall, which can be very dangerous if there is nobody around to help you. Having a Personal Alarm can help people who suffer from Paget’s disease and other medical conditions. Simply press the red button on your pendant to call for assistance. Our Response Team will answer the call, assess your situation and arrange for help to come to you as quickly as possible.

Read More – Paget’s Disease of Bone: A Useful Guide

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18. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive condition that damages certain parts of the brain. According to the NHS website, there are around 130,000 people in the UK living with Parkinson’s disease. That’s 1 in every 500 people.

The main cause of Parkinson’s is a loss of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in dopamine, an important chemical in the brain. The condition is most common in middle-aged and elderly people.

Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

The most common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor)
  • Slow movement
  • Stiff and inflexible muscles

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, there are treatments available that can reduce the symptoms and help those affected to maintain their quality of life for as long as possible.

Read More – Parkinson’s Disease: A Useful Guide

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19. Stroke

Having a stroke can be life-threatening if you don’t seek medical attention straight away. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of your brain is cut off. Without blood, brain cells can be damaged and may even die.

Strokes are particularly common among older people. The average age for suffering a stroke is 74 for men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For women, however, the average age is slightly higher: 80. Across the UK, strokes are a leading cause of disability, with around two thirds of all survivors being left with a disability of some kind.

Symptoms of Stroke

It’s very important to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke. The sooner you get treatment, the better the outcome is likely to be. As mentioned, strokes can be life-threatening, so it’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Memorise the signs of a stroke with the word FAST:

  • Face – Has their face drooped or fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • Arms – Can the person raise both arms and hold them there?
  • Speech – Are they speaking clearly? Or is their speech slurred or garbled?
  • Time – Don’t waste any time! Dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these symptoms

It’s absolutely vital to call 999 if you notice any signs of a stroke. Wearing an alarm pendant ensures that you can call for help even if there's no one around or you’re unable to reach for the phone. Our Response Team will take care of everything, by calling the emergency services and notifying your loved ones. They’ll also be able to inform the paramedics of any other medical conditions you have, as well as any allergies and medications you take.

Read More – Stroke: A Useful Guide

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20. Shingles

Shingles is a skin condition that is very common among older people, especially those over the age of 70. This is because your body’s immune system becomes weaker as you age.

Shingles is caused by the same virus which causes chickenpox. Therefore, only those who have had chickenpox can develop shingles. The infection will usually cause a painful rash and/or blisters to form on your skin, which may become extremely itchy.

If you have shingles, the affected area will feel quite tender and you may experience sharp stabbing pains every now and then. Other symptoms include a burning and tingling feeling in the affected areas, as well as a high temperature and a general feeling of being unwell.

The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner treatment can begin. The NHS suggests using calamine lotion as this has a cooling, soothing effect on the skin and can relieve the itchy feeling. If your blisters are weeping, you can use a cloth or flannel which has been cooled with tap water to relieve discomfort.

People aged 70-78 are eligible for a free shingles vaccination with the NHS. This is the best way of avoiding the condition.

Read More – Shingles: A Useful Guide

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Staying Safe at Home

personal alarm can protect people who suffer from medical conditions like those mentioned in this article. If one of our alarm users feels unwell or suffers a fall, they can press their pendant button and our Response Team will arrange help immediately.

For more information on our life-saving personal alarms, send an email to info@lifeline24.co.uk or speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our handy contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

You can order a Lifeline alarm online today. Alongside the standard pendant alarm, we also offer an automatic fall detector alarm for peace of mind in the event of a fall.

 

 

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 18th May 2022 to reflect current information.

Epilepsy is one of the most common medical conditions in the UK, affecting over 600,000 people. That's more than one in every 100. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes seizures. It is worth noting, however, that not all seizures are epileptic seizures: certain heart conditions and diabetes can also cause them.

The condition is commonly diagnosed in those at polar opposites of the age spectrum: children and those over 65. To receive a diagnosis of epilepsy, a patient generally has to have suffered more than one seizure.

Epilepsy Statistics

The Epilepsy Action website provides some interesting statistics about the condition.

  • Every day, 87 people receive an epilepsy diagnosis.
  • Only 52% of people with epilepsy are seizure-free.
  • With the correct treatment, an estimated 70% of people could be seizure-free.
  • There are around 60 different kinds of seizures, some more severe than others.
  • Epileptic seizures can be life-threatening. 1,000 people die in the UK every year because of their epilepsy.

Epilepsy can start at any age and there are different types of the condition. Some forms might only last for a limited amount of time. However, for the majority of people with epilepsy, it is a lifelong condition.

Causes of Epilepsy

There are several known causes of epilepsy. Some types of epilepsy are genetic, while others can begin after traumatic injuries or illnesses. Here are some of the main causes:

  • A brain infection, such as meningitis.
  • A stroke.
  • A severe head injury.
  • Problems during birth, causing the baby to receive less oxygen.

However, in more than half of epilepsy cases, doctors cannot pinpoint the cause. Experts and researchers are working hard to improve our understanding of this condition.

According to the NHS, around one in three people with epilepsy will have a family member with the condition. Scientists are currently studying the genes that might be involved in passing on epilepsy, to see how and why this occurs.

Types of Epileptic Seizure

Epileptic seizures are caused by rapid and erratic electrical impulses from the neurons in the brain. There are lots of different types of seizure. The effects on the person will differ depending on the part of the brain that the seizure affects.

Partial seizures only affect a small part of the brain, and there are two types:

  • Simple partial seizures, during which you remain completely conscious but often experience sudden intense emotion and pins and needles in your limbs.
  • Complex partial seizures, during which you lose awareness, almost entering a trance, and could forget what happened afterwards.

Generalised seizures affect a much larger portion of the brain, and come in six types:

  1. Atonic seizures - Cause your muscles to relax instantly, potentially causing a fall.
  2. Tonic seizures - Cause your muscles to tighten instantly, and carry a similar risk.
  3. Absences - Last 10 to 20 seconds, during which you stare vacantly into space and lose awareness.
  4. Myoclonic seizures - Last barely a second and involve an involuntary jerking of the limbs or upper body.
  5. Clonic seizures - Include similar symptoms to those of myoclonic seizures, but may last several minutes and can cause unconsciousness.
  6. Tonic-clonic seizures - Are most associated with the ‘image’ of epilepsy. Sufferers become stiff and lose consciousness, their arms and legs twitching. They can last several minutes.

Read More - Epilepsy Symptoms: A Guide to the Different Types of Seizures

Diagnosis

In order for a doctor to diagnose you with epilepsy, they will need to take a detailed description of the types of seizures you have been having. As we have already mentioned, you will usually need to have had multiple seizures before you get a diagnosis.

Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist - a specialist in medical conditions which affect the brain and nerves. This specialist may also suggest having an electroencephalogram (EEG) or a brain scan to look for any problems in your brain.

An EEG can check for unusual electrical activity in the brain, which can be an indicator of epilepsy. A brain scan will spot problems in your brain that can cause the condition, such as an unusual growth, damage to the brain, or scarring.

However, even if these tests don't show anything, it's still possible that you have epilepsy. You may receive a diagnosis based solely on your symptoms.

 

Treatment for Epilepsy

Though there is currently no cure, there are a range of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) that can help sufferers manage their condition. These alter the balance of chemicals responsible for carrying electrical impulses in the brain, in order to prevent seizures. There is a degree of trial and error involved in determining which type of AED is best for each person, and in what dose.

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is another type of treatment. This involves placing a small electrical device under the skin of your chest. This device is attached to a wire which connects to a nerve in your back called the vagus nerve. Electricity is then sent along the wire to the nerve. It is thought that VNS can help control and reduce seizures by changing the electrical signals in the brain.

Some people also find that a ketogenic diet is effective in managing epilepsy.

If other treatment is not effective at managing your epilepsy, you could be a candidate for deep brain stimulation (DBS). This is similar to VNS, except the device placed in the chest is connected to wires which go directly to the brain. Electrical impulses sent along these wires can help prevent seizures by changing the electrical signals in the brain.

In extreme cases, neurosurgeons can remove part of the brain to try and relieve epileptic symptoms.

Read More - Common Treatments for Epilepsy

Credit: World Health Organization

Living with Epilepsy

Epilepsy can affect people in different ways, but there are some general things that you can do to help control your seizures and continue to live safely. Controlling your seizures as much as possible is essential as they can become very dangerous.

Alongside taking all medication according to instructions, you should identify and avoid (where possible) the triggers of your seizures. Common triggers of seizures include:

  • Stress.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Flashing lights.
  • Waking up.
  • Some medications and illegal drugs.
  • Periods.

A good way of identifying these triggers is to keep a seizure diary. Whenever you have a seizure, you should write down what you were doing beforehand. Over time, you might be able to notice a pattern, which could help identify a seizure trigger. Once you understand your triggers, you can take steps to avoid them.

Seizure Safety Tips

For some people with epilepsy, seizures are impossible to avoid. It's therefore very important to understand how to keep yourself safe during a seizure. Here are some general tips:

  • Cover furniture edges or sharp corners to avoid injury in case of a fall.
  • Don't lock the bathroom door.
  • Have a shower instead of a bath - to avoid the risk of drowning.
  • Install smoke detectors to let you know if food is burning. You can lose awareness following a seizure.
  • Use guards on heaters and radiators so that you don't fall directly onto them.
  • Place saucepans on the back burners and with the handles turned away from the edge of the cooker, so you don't knock them over during a seizure.
  • Make sure you have a way to call for help when you need it.

Although you can still take part in sporting activities with epilepsy, experts advise that you wear a helmet whilst cycling or horse riding, don't go swimming on your own, and avoid using certain types of gym equipment.

Once you've had a seizure, you will need to inform the Driving and Vehicle Authority (DVLA). You will need to stop driving (at least temporarily). The DVLA may ask you to surrender your licence (this means sending it back to them in the post). Those who have been seizure-free for a year can re-apply for their driving license.

Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy

On rare occasions, a person with epilepsy dies during or after a seizure for no obvious reason. This is known as sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). Although rare, it is important to be aware of the danger, as SUDEP can sometimes be preventable. Those who suffer from tonic-clonic seizures are generally at the highest risk of SUDEP.

The main thing you can do in order to reduce your risk is to make sure your epilepsy is well controlled. This can be done by taking your medication and avoiding seizure triggers where possible. If you are concerned about your condition, you should contact your epilepsy specialist as soon as possible.

A charity called SUDEP Action can offer advice and support, as well as a helpline for people who've lost a loved one as a result of epilepsy.

Can I Help Somebody Having a Seizure?

The Epilepsy Action website has two separate guides which explain what to do when somebody has a seizure: one for a tonic-clonic or focal seizure and one for seizures which last over five minutes.

Here are some tips for helping someone suffering from a tonic-clonic seizure:

Do:

  • Protect them from injury (remove harmful objects from nearby).
  • Cushion their head.
  • Look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery – it may give you information about their seizures and what to do.
  • Time how long the jerking lasts.
  • Aid breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position once the jerking has stopped.
  • Stay with them until they are fully recovered.
  • Be calmly reassuring.

Don't:

  • Restrain their movements.
  • Put anything in their mouth.
  • Try to move them unless they are in danger.
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered.
  • Attempt to bring them round.

You should call for an ambulance in the following instances:

  • You know it is the person's first seizure.
  • The jerking continues for longer than five minutes.
  • The person has one tonic-clonic seizure after another without regaining consciousness in-between.
  • They are injured during the seizure.
  • You believe they need medical attention.

Personal Alarms for Epilepsy

For people with epilepsy, a personal alarm can be an important source of protection and peace of mind. At Lifeline24, we offer several different kinds of alarm, including a Fall Detector which could be particularly useful to those who have seizures.

When the alarm is activated (either by pressing the emergency button on the wearable pendant or base unit, or by the automatic fall detector) our 24/7 Response Team will answer the call within seconds. They will quickly assess the situation and send help directly to your home. This could mean calling your chosen emergency contacts to come and assist you and/or calling the emergency services to attend. This service saves lives and offers life-changing peace of mind to alarm users and their loved ones alike.

For more information on the personal alarm service, call us on 0800 999 0400 to speak to our expert advisors. Alternatively, you can fill in our Contact Us form and we will get in touch with you as soon as we can.

You can order your new Lifeline alarm online today and receive free next-day delivery.

VAT Exemption

If you have epilepsy, then you qualify for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm system from Lifeline24. This means you will not pay any VAT whatsoever on your new Lifeline alarm.

There are several other medical conditions which qualify you for VAT Exemption. For more information, see our helpful guide or call us on 0800 999 0400.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 25th April 2022 to reflect current information.

Paget's disease of bone is a common medical condition that mainly affects people over the age of 50 in the UK. The condition is named after Sir James Paget, who identified it in the late 19th century. According to the Paget's Association website, the disease occurs in around 1% of UK adults over 55. By the age of 80, around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 20 women will have Paget's disease in some part of their skeleton.

You may have already seen our guide to the most common medical conditions that affect older people. This article focuses solely on Paget's disease of bone, including the causes, symptoms and treatments available.

What is Paget's Disease of Bone? 

Bone, as you may know, is living tissue that is constantly being renewed and repaired. Paget's disease of bone disrupts this cycle of bone renewal, also called bone remodelling. As a result, the bones become weak and, in some cases, misshapen. The condition commonly affects the bones in the pelvis, spine and skull, although it can also affect other areas of the body.

Causes of Paget's Disease

There are two important kinds of cells which are responsible for the regeneration of your bone cells:

  1. Osteoclasts - cells that absorb old bone.
  2. Osteoblasts - cells that make new bone.

Paget's disease of bone occurs when the osteoclast cells begin to absorb bone at a faster pace than usual. This then leads to your osteoblast cells attempting to produce new bone quicker than usual. As a result, bones can become larger or weaker than normal, or appear misshapen.

We don't yet know exactly why this process occurs. Genetics seems to play a part. For example, the children of people with Paget's disease are around seven times more likely to develop the condition themselves, according to Paget's Association. A bone injury in early life can also trigger the condition in those who are already genetically likely to develop it.

Symptoms of Paget's Disease

Symptoms of Paget's disease of bone are actually quite rare. Many people will only receive a diagnosis after having an x-ray or blood test for another reason. However, some people do experience symptoms, including:

  • Pain - usually in the affected bone(s) or the nearby joints.
  • Joint stiffness and swelling.
  • Shooting pain that travels along or across the body.
  • Numbness and tingling.
  • Loss of movement in a part of the body.
  • Visible changes to the shape of your bone(s).

Diagnosis

There are three main ways to diagnose Paget's disease of bone: blood tests, x-rays, and bone scans.

Blood Tests

You might have a blood test for several reasons, even if your doctor does not suspect Paget's disease. A general blood test looks for lots of different substances, including an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase (ALP). High levels of ALP can often be an indicator of Paget's disease. However, this is not enough by itself to diagnose the condition. You might need further blood tests or other tests to identify why your ALP is high.

X-Ray

X-rays can often detect the signs and features of Paget's disease in the skull, abdomen, and legs. However, a single X-Ray won't be enough to understand the full extent of its presence. More tests will be necessary to see if any other bones have been affected.

Bone Scans

In some cases, the doctor might also carry out an isotope bone scan to check the extent of the disease throughout the body. This involves a small amount of radioactive substance being injected into your blood. This substance will collect in areas where there is a lot of bone renewal taking place. Doctors can see these areas using a special camera before the radioactive substance passes out of your body.

Treatment for Paget's Disease

Currently, there is no cure for Paget's disease of bone. Fortunately, there are several treatments that can help relieve the symptoms. If you aren't experiencing symptoms, you might not start treatment right away.

Here are some of the common treatments for Paget's disease of bone.

Bisphosphonates

Bisphosphonates are a group of medicines that can help to regulate bone growth, by slowing down the cells that absorb old bone. As a result, the body won't need to produce so much new bone tissue. There are several different types of Bisphosphonates available, the most common of which are risedronate, zoledronate, and pamidronate. This medication can help to reduce the pain caused by Paget's disease of the bone for several years at a time.

Painkillers 

Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help to reduce any pain caused by your condition. You should always make sure that you read the packet or leaflet before you start taking painkillers to ensure that they are suitable for you.

Therapy 

Some people affected by Paget's disease can benefit from supportive therapies such as occupational and physiotherapy. Both offer exercises and techniques that can help to reduce pain, improve movement, and make everyday tasks easier for you.

Special Devices 

Products such as walking sticks, orthotics insoles, and spinal braces can help to reduce the strain on the affected bones.

Surgery 

Most people won't need to have surgery for Paget's disease. However, in serious cases, where further problems such as fractures and osteoarthritis develop, you may need to have surgery. Common procedures include realigning the bones after a fracture, removing and replacing a damaged joint with an artificial one, and moving bone away from a compressed nerve.

Diet

Calcium and vitamin D will help to keep your bones and healthy. We should all make sure we're getting enough of these nutrients in our diets, but this is especially important for people with Paget's disease. You will find calcium in dairy products such as cheese and milk (or fortified plant milks like soya and oat), as well as sardines and other fish eaten with the bones.

Complications

Unfortunately, Paget's disease of the bone can sometimes lead to further complications. The NHS lists the following as examples:

  • Fragile bones that will break more easily.
  • Enlarged or misshapen bones. You might notice that one leg feels shorter than the other as a result of curvature.
  • Hearing loss (if the condition affects your skull).
  • Too much calcium in your blood, known as hypercalcemia.
  • Heart problems.
  • Bone cancer - although this is very rare, only affecting between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000 people with Paget's disease.

Stay Safe at Home

Our personal alarm service is ideal for people who suffer from a medical condition like Paget's disease of the bone. If you ever suffer a fall or need assistance, simply press the button on your pendant and our 24-hour Response Team will help.

For more information about our alarms, please speak to our friendly advisors on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, send us an email to info@lifeline24.co.uk or complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Read more: 20 Most Common Medical Conditions Affecting Older People 

VAT Exemption

Paget's disease of bone qualifies you for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm system from Lifeline24. This means that you will not have to pay any VAT whatsoever on your new Lifeline Alarm system - a significant saving. More than 95% of Lifeline24 customers are eligible for VAT exemption. To find out more about qualifying conditions, click here.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 19th April 2022 to reflect current information.

Epilepsy is a common neurological condition which affects the brain. Sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain cause temporary disruption, triggering a seizure. Epilepsy is a common, often life-long condition, that can develop at any time in your life. However, it is most commonly diagnosed in children and people over the age of 65. In the UK, epilepsy affects an estimated 600,000 people.

This article will look in more detail at the different types of seizures you may experience as a result of epilepsy. For more information on the condition as a whole, take a look at our in-depth guide. You can also read about the other common medical conditions affecting older people.

What is a Seizure?

A seizure is the body's response to sudden changes within the electrical activity in your brain causing a temporary disruption to normal activity. It is important to note that anyone can have a one-off seizure; this does not always mean they have epilepsy. Generally speaking, you will need to have more than one seizure to receive an epilepsy diagnosis. There are many different types of epileptic seizure. In some instances, you may remain alert and aware. However, you will often lose awareness when you are having a seizure.

According to the Epilepsy Society seizures are divided into groups depending on the following factors:

  • Onset – Whereabouts in the brain they start including focal, generalised, or unknown onset.
  • Awareness – Whether or not your awareness is affected.
  • Other symptoms – Whether or not you have other symptoms with the seizure such as body movement.

Facial Seizures

Also referred to as a focal onset seizure, this is where the epileptic seizure starts in one part of the brain. This could be a large part of one hemisphere (side) of the brain or a small area in one of the brains lobes. This area is sometimes referred to as the ‘focus’ of the seizure. These seizures can have both motor and non-motor symptoms and the affect the seizure has on you will vary depending on which part of the brain has been affected.

There are two main types of focal seizure which are differentiated depending on the awareness you have during the seizure.

Focal Aware Seizures (FAS)

With this type of seizure, you will remain conscious, meaning you are aware and alert to your surroundings. You may find it hard to explain how you are feeling when this happens to you, which can be upsetting and frustrating. You may have some ‘strange’ sensations which, according to the NHS, can present as:

  • A rising sensation in your stomach.
  • A feeling of déjà vu.
  • Unusual smells or tastes.
  • Tingling in your arms or legs.
  • An intense feeling of fear or joy.

This type of seizure may also be known as a warning or ‘aura’, as it can serve as a sign that you are about to have another type of seizure.

Focal Impaired Awareness Seizure (FIAS)

This type of seizure affects a bigger part of one hemisphere of your brain. In this case, your awareness will be affected at some point during the seizure, this often means you are unable to respond to the people around you, your reactions may be different to normal, and you can be very confused.

The effect that these seizures have on somebody with epilepsy will vary from person to person, and will also depend on which part of the brain is affected by the seizure. After the seizure the person may be very confused and want to rest. They may also have no memory of the seizure.

For more information on focal seizures, visit Epilepsy Action (EA).



Tonic-clonic Seizures

This type of seizure is the one that most people will recognise when they think of epilepsy. They have generalised onset meaning they affect both sides of the brain from the start. These seizures happen in two phases:

  1. Tonic phase – This is the part where you will lose consciousness, your body will stiffen, and if standing you will fall to the floor. Sometimes you will cry out due to air pushing past your voice box. It is also at this phase that you may bite down on your tongue or the inside of your mouth.
  2. Clonic phase – This phase shortly follows the tonic phase and it is during this part that your limbs begin to jerk quickly. You may lose control of your bladder and/or bowels and your breathing may be affected. Your breathing may sound noisy as it becomes difficult to breathe. Due to this, your skin may start to change colour to a blueish tinge.

The seizure usually lasts between one and three minutes. If the tonic-clonic seizure is lasting for longer than five minutes you may need emergency medical treatment. After the seizure is over you will often feel tired, sore, very unwell, and you may have a headache. The recovery time after a seizure of this type will vary from person-to-person but can take from a couple of hours to several days.

Absence Seizures

This type of seizure most commonly affects children but it can happen at any age, so it is still important to be aware of. There are two common types of absence seizures:

  • Typical absences – You will be unconscious for a few seconds, meaning you do not know what is happening around you. This can often look like daydreaming so people around you may not notice that you are actually having a seizure. You may also have some physical symptoms with this, including fluttering eyelids and slight jerking movements of your limbs. Typical absences often happen in clusters, but some people can have hundreds of absences per day.
  • Atypical absences – These are very similar to typical absences however they tend to last longer. You will sometimes be able to move and respond to your surroundings when having an atypical absence seizure.

Myoclonic Seizures

Myoclonic seizures are also referred to as myoclonic jerks. They can be either generalised onset or focal onset. In these seizures you will be conscious and have muscle jerks. In myoclonic seizures you will experience sudden, short-lasting jerks in parts of your body, or all of your body. Some people refer to this feeling as an ‘electric shock' sensation.

The jerks can vary from mild to severe in force. They are very short-lived as the seizures will only last a fraction of a second. However, many people will experience these seizures in clusters so they can seem to last a longer period of time.

Clonic Seizures

According to the NHS, these seizures are similar in presentation to a tonic-clonic seizure as they cause your body to rhythmically shake and jerk. However, your body will not go stiff at the start.

Tonic Seizures

These seizures can be generalised or focal onset, meaning they can affect both sides or just one side of the brain from the start. According to EA, if a tonic seizure starts in one side of your brain your muscles tighten in just one area of your body. However, if a tonic seizure starts in both sides of your brain your whole body will be affected.

The symptoms you will experience may include:

  • All your muscles will tighten, and your body will stiffen – if standing you may fall.
  • Your neck may extend, your eyes open wide and roll upwards.
  • Your arms may raise up and your legs might either stretch or contract.
  • You might cry out.
  • You may have breathing difficulties.

These seizures usually last less than 60 seconds.

Atonic Seizures

Atonic seizures are sometimes referred to as ‘drop attacks’. These seizures carry different symptoms to tonic seizures. Instead of the muscles tightening and stiffening, with an atonic seizure usually all of your muscles will relax and go limp which can cause you to drop to the floor.

This is dangerous as you will suddenly fall, and you may gain injuries to your head or other areas of your body. Like tonic seizures, these are usually very brief and happen with no warning. There is usually little recovery time needed after an atonic seizure and you are likely to be able to get straight back up unless you have injured yourself.



Other Types of Epilepsy Seizures

There are some other types of seizures, however the above are the most common. Sometimes, if a seizure has not been witnessed or doctors can't ascertain whereabouts it started in the brain, it will be referred to as an unknown onset seizure.

Status Epilepticus

A person diagnosed with epilepsy will usually become familiar with the types of seizures they experience and their usual recovery time, and this includes any medications they may need to take. In most cases, their seizures will last a similar length of time and stop by themselves.

Status epilepticus is the name given to a seizure that lasts a very long time, usually five minutes or more, or when a person has a series of seizures without time to recover or regain consciousness in between. This is not common, however it can happen with any type of seizure and it means that the person must seek medical attention. If status epilepticus occurs with a convulsive seizure this would warrant a medical emergency and urgent medical help must be sourced.

All epileptic seizure symptoms will be different, and it is very important to regularly discuss and review your epilepsy and the medications you are given with your medical professional.

Personal Alarms Can Help

If you have epilepsy, it may be wise to consider a personal alarm. This way, if you suffer from any of the seizures mentioned above and you're alone, you'll be able to press your pendant button and send an alert call to our 24/7 Response Team. For added security, our fall detector will automatically detect when you've fallen to the ground and sends an alert without you needing to do anything.

If you want to find out more about our service, please give our customer service team a call on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 18th April 2022 to reflect current information.

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