Osteoarthritis

An Overview

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. The cartilage within a joint begins to break down and the underlying bone begins to change. These changes usually develop slowly and get worse over time. OA can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. In some cases it also causes reduced function and disability; some people are no longer able to do daily tasks or work. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. A doctor diagnoses OA through a review of symptoms, physical examination, X-rays, and lab tests. A rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in arthritis and other related conditions, can help if there are any questions about the diagnosis.

Symptoms for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis symptoms can usually be managed, although the damage to joints can’t be reversed. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and receiving certain treatments might slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function.
steoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
• Pain. Affected joints might hurt during or after movement.
• Stiffness. Joint stiffness might be most noticeable upon awakening or after being inactive.
• Tenderness. Your joint might feel tender when you apply light pressure to or near it.
• Loss of flexibility. You might not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
• Grating sensation. You might feel a grating sensation when you use the joint, and you might hear popping or crackling.
• Bone spurs. These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, can form around the affected joint.
• Swelling. This might be caused by soft tissue inflammation around the joint

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that enables nearly frictionless joint motion. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, bone will rub on bone. Osteoarthritis has often been referred to as a wear and tear disease. But besides the breakdown of cartilage, osteoarthritis affects the entire joint. It causes changes in the bone and deterioration of the connective tissues that hold the joint together and attach muscle to bone. It also causes inflammation of the joint lining
Age
Osteoarthritis usually starts from the late 40s onwards. This may be due to bodily changes that come with ageing, such as weakening muscles, weight gain, and the body becoming less able to heal itself effectively.
Obesity
Being overweight is an important factor in causing osteoarthritis, especially in weight-bearing joints such as the knee and the hip.
Joint injury
A major injury or operation on a joint may lead to osteoarthritis in that joint later in life. Normal activity and exercise don’t cause osteoarthritis, but very hard, repetitive activity or physically demanding jobs can increase your risk.
Joint abnormalities
If you were born with abnormalities or developed them in childhood, it can lead to earlier and more severe osteoarthritis than usual.
Genetic factors
The genes we inherit can affect the likelihood of getting osteoarthritis at the hand, knee or hip. Some very rare forms of osteoarthritis are linked to mutations of single genes that affect a protein called collagen.
There’s no blood test for osteoarthritis, although your doctor may suggest you have them to help rule out other types of arthritis.

Diagnosis

X-rays aren’t usually helpful in diagnosing osteoarthritis, although they may be useful to show whether there are any calcium deposits in the joint.
In rare cases, an MRI scan of the knee can be helpful to identify other possible joint or bone problems that could be causing your symptoms.

Treatment

There is no cure for OA, so doctors usually treat OA symptoms with a combination of therapies, which may include the following:
• Increasing physical activity
• Physical therapy with muscle strengthening exercises
• Weight loss
• Medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription drugs
• Supportive devices such as crutches or canes
• Surgery (if other treatment options have not been effective).

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