Definition

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage or cushion between joints breaks down leading to pain, stiffness, swelling and pain. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it most commonly affects the joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.

How common is osteoarthritis?

This osteoarthritis is relatively common. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, before the age of 45, osteoarthritis is more common in men. After 45, it is more common in women. It can affect patients at any age, but it is most common in people older than 65. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The common symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  • Pain and stiffness. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and stiffness in your joints, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting.
  • Your joint may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it.
  • Loss of flexibility. You may have a limited range of movement in your joints.
  • Grating or crackling sound or sensation in your joints.
  • Swelling around a joint.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is caused by a breakdown in the cartilage that covers the joints. Cartilage is a tough but rubbery substance covering the end of bones. It protects joints and allows bones to move easily against each other. In osteoarthritis, the slick surface of the cartilage becomes rough. If the cartilage wears down completely, the patient with osteoarthritis may be left with bone rubbing on bone.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for osteoarthritis?

There are many risk factors for osteoarthritis, such as:

  • Older age. Osteoarthritis is a disease of aging.
  • Carrying extra body weight puts additional pressure on hips and knees. In addition, excess fat tissue produces inflammatory chemicals that can damage the joints.
  • Injury and overuse. Injuries, such as those that occur when playing sports or from an accident, may increase the risk of osteoarthritis. People with certain careers that require standing for long periods of time, repetitive bending, heavy lifting or other movements may eventually develop osteoarthritis.
  • Various genetic traits can make a person more likely to develop osteoarthritis. One possibility is a rare defect in the body’s production of collagen, which makes up cartilage.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

To diagnose osteoarthritis, the doctor will collect information about your symptoms and perform a physical examination.  Your doctor may also recommend some diagnostic tests.

The following tests could be used to diagnose osteoarthritis:

  • X-rays. This test can show any damage and other changes related to osteoarthritis to confirm the diagnosis.
  • An MRI isn’t commonly needed to diagnose osteoarthritis but may help provide more information in complex cases.
  • Blood tests. Certain tests may help rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Joint fluid analysis. This test can determine if there is inflammation and if your pain is caused by gout or an infection.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but treatments are available to manage symptoms. The main treatments for osteoarthritis include:

Lifestyle measures:

  • While it may be hard to think of exercise when the joints hurt, moving is considered an important part of the treatment plan. Regular exercise that keeps you active, builds up muscle and strengthens the joints usually helps to improve symptoms. Your doctor can give you an exercise plan to follow at home because there’s a risk that doing too much exercise too quickly, or doing the wrong sort of exercise, may damage your joints.
  • Weight management. Losing weight can help people with osteoarthritis reduce pain and limit further joint damage. Your doctor can also advise about how to lose weight slowly and safely.

Medications:

  • These are pain relievers and include acetaminophen, opioids and an atypical opioid called tramadol. They are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib. These are the most commonly used drugs to ease pain and reduce swelling in your joints. Some NSAIDs are available as creams (topical NSAIDs) that you apply directly to the affected joints.
  • You should have no more than three corticosteroid injections a year, with at least a three-month gap between injections because the medication can worsen joint damage over time.
  • Hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is found in the synovial fluid in joints and acts as both a lubricant and shock absorber. Injections of hyaluronic acid may offer pain relief by providing some cushioning in your knee.

Surgery: Joint surgery can repair or replace severely damaged joints, especially hips or knees. Surgery for osteoarthritis may greatly improve your symptoms, mobility and quality of life.

Alternative medicine:

  • Some studies indicate that acupuncture can relieve pain and improve function in patient with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin. A few studies have found these supplements benefit for people with osteoarthritis, while most indicate that they work no better than a placebo.

Therapy:

  • Physical and occupational Therapy
  • Taichi and yoga

 

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage osteoarthritis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with osteoarthritis:

  • One of the most beneficial ways to manage osteoarthritis is to do exercise. Your doctor can give you an appropriate exercise plan.
  • Losing weight. Losing weight can help people with osteoarthritis reduce pain and limit further joint damage. You should talk to a dietitian about healthy ways to lose weight.
  • Use heat and cold to manage pain. Both heat and cold can relieve pain in your joint. Heat also relieves stiffness, and cold can relieve muscle spasms and pain.
  • Assistive devices. Assistive devices can help with function and mobility. These include items, such as like scooters, canes, walkers, splints, shoe orthotics,…

 

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: June 16, 2017 | Last Modified: June 16, 2017

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