Fine Motor Skills Disorders in Later Life

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Many disorders can affect fine motor skills in the elderly. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, Americans are living longer than ever before and many senior citizens enjoy healthy and active lives. However, certain medical conditions or disorders among older individuals can cause the loss of fine motor skills. Coping with reduced fine motor skills can be extremely challenging.


Stroke is a disorder that can affect fine motor skills among the elderly. According to the National Stroke Association or NSA--an organization dedicated to lowering the incidence and impact of stroke--a stroke, also known as a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to a portion of the brain is impaired. Strokes can be caused by blood clots blocking an artery or by the rupturing of a brain blood vessel. Lack of blood flow to the brain can cause brain cell death and brain damage in the affected area. The NSA states that stroke-related brain cell death affects abilities controlled by the involved brain regions, which may include speech, memory or gross and fine motor movements. The degree of stroke damage largely depends on where the stroke occurred and the amount of brain tissue damaged. Although there are certain controllable risk factors for stroke, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption and obesity, other factors, including a person's age, are uncontrollable.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a disorder that can affect fine motor skills in the elderly. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, or NINDS--a division of the National Institutes of Health--states that Parkinson's disease is one of several conditions categorized as a motor system disorder. Parkinson's disease is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, or NPF--an organization dedicated to addressing the unmet needs in Parkinson's care and treatment--there are four principle motor or movement symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease. They are shaking or tremors of the hands or other body parts while at rest, bradykinesia or slowness of movement, arm, leg and trunk stiffness and postural instability. Other common Parkinson's disease-related symptoms include depression, anxiety, hallucinations, constipation and pain.


Osteoarthritis is a disorder that can affect fine motor skills in the elderly. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, or NIAMS--a division of the National Institutes of Health--osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is particularly common among the elderly. The NIAMS states that osteoarthritis causes the surface layer of joint cartilage to wear down over time, which allows bone lying immediately beneath the cartilage to rub against other bone. Bone-on-bone contact can be extremely painful, and it can cause joint swelling and loss of joint motion. Osteoarthritis in the joints of the hands and fingers can impair fine motor movements due to pain or alterations in the joint's shape. According to the NIAMS, most people with osteoarthritis experience some degree of joint pain and reduced joint motion.