What Is Osteoarthritis? Types, Treatments & More
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis that affects millions of adults worldwide. It is a degenerative condition that causes pain and inflammation by gradually destroying the cartilage in your joints. Though osteoarthritis can affect every joint, the knees, hips, hands, and spine are the most commonly affected.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis and the damage to joints can't be reversed, symptoms can usually be managed by staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and receiving specific treatments that might slow the progression of the disease and help tackle the pain and improve joint functions.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is arthritis in which the protective cartilage that provides the cushioning effect in a joint wears away. As a result, bones grind against one another during joint movement, causing distress, oedema, and stiffness.
The changes in the cartilage usually occur slowly over many years. Inflammation and injury to the joint may trigger bony changes and deterioration of the tendons and ligaments and cause the cartilage to break down.
Though osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis show similar symptoms, the latter is an autoimmune condition. It is important to note that while osteoarthritis is the inflammation of the joint, osteoarthrosis involves the degeneration of the joint.
Different types of Osteoarthritis
Depending upon the cause, osteoarthritis can be of two types:
This is the most common form of osteoarthritis and occurs when joints wear out with age.
This type of arthritis is less common and occurs due to an accident or other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
There are various treatments available for osteoarthritis, but no cure. Treatment focuses on symptom relief and enhancing quality of life. Weight loss, exercise, pain relief medication, and surgery are all standard therapies.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
There can be several osteoarthritis causes. Primary osteoarthritis is said to have heterogeneous causes, meaning many different conditions can cause this. Age is one of the most common causes of primary osteoarthritis. This is because, as we age, the cartilage in our joints begins to thin and degrade, losing its ability to protect the bones from impact. This can result in inflammation, pain, and stiffness. The type of pain in osteoarthritis can range from dull and aching to sharp shooting.
Symptoms for Osteoarthritis?
The symptoms of osteoarthritis usually develop over a period of time, and the most common ones include the following:
- Tenderness in the joints
- Loss of flexibility of the joint
- A grating feeling, cracking, or popping sound when there is a joint movement
- Swelling around the affected joint that may be warm to touch
- Presence of bone spurs
The severity of symptoms may vary from person to person. Some people may only experience mild symptoms that come and go, while others may have more severe and prolonged symptoms that interfere with their everyday activities.
Risks & Complications related to Osteoarthritis
A few factors that increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis include:
Trauma or injury to the joint:
Repeated stress on the joint:
Carrying extra body weight adds to the stress on your joints, increasing your risk for osteoarthritis.
Injuries from sports or accidents increase the risk for osteoarthritis.
A joint frequently and persistently under stress has a higher chance of developing osteoarthritis.
Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis compared to men
Some people may have an inherited tendency to develop osteoarthritis
People with diabetes and haemochromatosis (excess iron in the blood) are at a greater risk for osteoarthritis.
You must talk to your doctor at Aware Gleneagles Global Hospitals, L B Nagar, if you think you may be at risk for osteoarthritis. They will be able to help you determine if you have the condition and recommend the best course of treatment.
Diagnosis for Osteoarthritis
There is no specific test to diagnose osteoarthritis. Usually, diagnosis of this condition involves the following:
- A complete medical history of your signs and symptoms and other conditions you may have.
- Complete family history of joint pains or arthritis.
- A thorough physical examination to check for your general health, joints, and reflexes.
- Imaging tests like x-rays and MRIs give your doctor a detailed picture of your bones, joints, and other soft tissues in the area.
- Routine blood tests to rule out other conditions.
- Fluid samples may be collected and tested for infection and conditions like gout.
How is Osteoarthritis Treated?
Osteoarthritis treatment primarily aims to reduce symptoms, improve joint function, prevent disease progression and improve quality of life. Standard osteoarthritis treatment involves:
Several different drugs can be used to treat osteoarthritis. Pain relief medication can help manage the pain associated with the condition. Anti-inflammatory medication help reduce inflammation and swelling.
It may sometimes be recommended to repair damage to the joints.
Exercise is an important part of osteoarthritis treatment. It helps strengthen the muscles around the joints, which can help to take some of the pressure off of the damaged joint. Talking to a doctor or physical therapist before starting an exercise program is important, as they can help design a safe and effective program for your particular situation.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for people with osteoarthritis. Extra weight puts extra stress on the joints, which can make the pain worse. Losing weight can help to reduce this stress and improve overall symptoms.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that gradually wears away at the cartilage that covers and protects the ends of your bones. As the cartilage breaks down, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion in the joint.
A few ways to prevent osteoarthritis are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight,
- Regular exercise
- Avoiding activities that stress your joints.
If you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other conditions that cause joint pain and difficult movement, a few treatments can help relieve your symptoms and improve your joint function.
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Frequently asked questions
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones breaks down. As the cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone. This can cause pain, swelling, and loss of motion in the affected joint. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis may occur due to one or more factors, including inflammation, ageing, joint injury, and obesity.
Who is at risk for osteoarthritis?
Anyone can develop osteoarthritis, but the condition is more common in people over age 50 or with a family history of the disease. Other risk factors include previous joint injury, obesity, and repetitive joint stress from occupations or sports.