What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, a combination of several conditions that damage the joints in between the bones of the human body. The areas where bones meet are usually covered in cartilage, a soft tissue that allows bones to move against one another without causing any discomfort. In patients with OA this cartilage breaks down and causes the bones to rub against one another, resulting in joint pain. Over time the bones can become misshapen or even splinter into smaller pieces that become suspended around the joint, causing further discomfort and damage.
Who can get osteoarthritis?
While it typically occurs in older individuals, OA can occur in younger people. This is most commonly due to previous joint injuries or other complications.
What causes osteoarthritis?
There are many factors that can contribute to OA, most of which are associated with aging.
- Cartilage naturally deteriorates as the body ages
- Continuous joint stress from certain jobs or athletic activities can speed up the rate of cartilage deterioration
- Being overweight puts additional stress on the joints, further deteriorating cartilage
- Improperly formed joints can lead to OA complications over time
What are the symptoms?
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint of the body, but is most common in a patient’s hands, knees, hips or spine. Some things to look out for include:
- Joint stiffness after lying or sitting in the same place for an extended period of time
- Tenderness or swelling in the joints
- The sound or feeling of bone rubbing against bone
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
There is no single method to diagnose osteoarthritis. Doctors look for evidence by:
- Studying previous medical history for any warning signs or concerns
- Performing a physical exam to determine stiffness, swelling or soreness of joints
- Taking X-rays
- Drawing blood or samples of fluid from within the joint
How is osteoarthritis treated?
The main goal of osteoarthritis treatments are to reduce pain, improve joint function and encourage healthy living to maintain a proper body weight. Methods can include:
- Medicines to control and manage joint pain
- Exercises and stretching techniques to manage joint pain without medication
- Use of assistive devices such as canes, crutches or splints
- Exercise and diet monitoring to control weight
- Complementary and alternative therapies
Osteoarthritis can start as a minor discomfort but quickly become a serious concern. There is no cure for OA, but its progress can be slowed and in some cases mitigated through proactive care and treatments. Stay aware of your body and don’t hesitate to contact a medical professional if you recognize some potential OA symptoms.
Contact us today to learn more about osteoarthritis or to get help for your condition.