A Simple Guide To Understanding Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. The word 'osteoarthritis' is derived from three Greek words osteo meaning bones, arthr means joints and itis means inflammation. Thus, osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition that results pain in joints and bones. Cartilage is the connective tissue between the bones and is made up of protein that serves as a cushion between the joints of the bones.
Osteoarthritis is caused by breakdown and loss of cartilage of one or more joints. Osteoarthritis is also called as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease as the cartilage between the bones degenerates causing painful rubbing of bone to bone in joints. Osteoarthritis may also cause joints to fall out of their natural positions causing misalignment. The most frequently affected joints include hands, spine, knees and hips. It often develops in people who are between the age ranging from 40 years to 60 years.
Osteoarthritis - Signs and Symptoms
The indications of osteoarthritis often develop slowly and worsen with time. The following are the common signs and symptoms:-
- Pain in joints during or after period of inactivity
- Tenderness in joints when you apply light pressure
- Stiffness in joints, that is mostly noticeable when waking up in the morning or after a period of inactivity
- Loss of flexibility which makes it difficult to use joints
- Grating sensation when moving
- Bone spurs, which appears as hard lumps formed near the affected joints
- Loss of movement
- Cracking or creaking of joints
- Knobby bone growth
Osteoarthritis - Causes
The primary cause of osteoarthritis is aging. With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases and the protein makeup degenerates. Repetitive use of joints over the years irritates and inflames cartilage causing pain and swelling in joints. In due course, cartilage begins to degenerate by cracking and forming tiny narrow openings. In advance cases there are total loss of cartilage, causing friction between the bones, leading to pain and restrictions in movement in joints. In some of the cases, it has been seen that some people are genetically predisposed to acquiring osteoarthritis, but this has not yet be proven.
A summary of the factors that cause osteoarthritis includes:-
- Obesity adds to the stress and strain on the joints
- Previous injury in joints
- Repetitive surgery of joints
- Abnormal joints at the birth
- Diseases such as diabetes, gout or hormonal disorders
- Large deposits of crystals of calcium pyrophosphate and uric acid
- Jobs or activities that involve repetitive movements of particular joint
Osteoarthritis - Diagnosis
Osteoarthritis is usually diagnosed by symptoms and by the physical examination of the patient. The factors such as medical history, history of arthritis in the family, occupation and the activities done by the patient are taken into account.
Generally X-ray analysis is useful for identification of osteoarthritis as it can highlight the narrow space between the bones in joints and bone spur formation. It also shows whether there is any calcium built up in the body tissues which causes hardening.
Occasionally, a Computerized Tomography scan (CT scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan (MRI scan) is also used to identify osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis - Treatment
Generally following medicines are prescribed for treating osteoarthritis:-
- Analgesics such as acetaminophen, they help to relieve pain.
- Non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
- Corticosteroids injected directly into the affected joint.
In severe cases of osteoarthritis, arthroplasty is used to treat patient. arthroplasty involves reconstruction or replacement of diseased joint. Other possible cases include realignment of joints.
There are number of other therapies that are used to treat Osteoarthritis. The therapies are as follows
- Intake of nutritional supplements such as glucosamine sulphate, chondroitin and fish oil
Osteoarthritis - Prevention
The following are some of the preventive steps for osteoarthritis:-
- Controlling weight
- Taking care that bone injuries do not occur
- Proper physical exercise
- Maintaining good posture
- Avoiding stress.
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