Osteoarthritis: What You Need to Know

Sometimes referred to as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis (OA) is considered one of the most common conditions that affect the joints.

While OA can affect any joint in the body, it often manifests in the lower back, hips, knees, neck, big toe, and the small joints found in the fingers.

Typically, the end of each bone is covered by a rubbery and firm material known as the cartilage.

Aside from acting as cushion between the bones, it also allows joint movement by providing a smooth, gliding surface.

When OA sets in however, the cartilage breaks down, resulting to swelling, pain, and difficulty moving the joint.

In severe cases, the bones can break down and growths called spurs may develop.

In its final stages, the cartilage can wear away completely, resulting to more pain and more damage to the joint.

Who are susceptible?

While osteoarthritis can affect people regardless of age, the condition is observed to be more prevalent in people past 65 years of age.

Common risk factors of the condition include genes, previous joint injury, obesity, weak thigh muscles, joint overuse, and age.

Other OA statistics indicate that:

  • One in four people develop symptoms of hip osteoarthritis by age 85.
  • One in two people are likely to develop OA symptoms during their lifetime.
  • One in twelve people that are 60 years and older are suffering from osteoarthritis of the hand.

What are some of the most common symptoms of OA?

OA symptoms can vary, depending on the joint affected and the severity of the condition.

However, stiffness and pain after resting or first thing in the morning are considered two of the most telltale signs.

Swelling can also manifest in the affected joint.

It can be especially evident after doing extended activities.

Other symptoms that point to OA include:

  • Stiff or sore joints (especially after overuse or inactivity)
  • Motion range become limited
  • Cracking or clicking sound when the affected joint is bent
  • Swelling around the affected joint
  • Pain (often gets worse after an activity)

The stiffness, swelling, and pain that comes with osteoarthritis can make performing even the most basic of chores—driving, tucking in bed sheets, opening a box of food, etc.—extra challenging.

When it affects the joints of the lower parts of the body, OA can make activities like lifting objects, walking, and climbing the stairs difficult.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

To accurately diagnose the condition, the doctor will conduct a physical examination, order diagnostic tests, and ask about the patient’s personal and family medical history.

Symptoms and health history

Likely questions that will be asked to diagnose the condition can include:

  • When the pain began
  • What are the symptoms that manifest
  • Location of the pain and stiffness
  • How the symptoms affect the patient’s day-to-day activities

Physical Examination

The physical examination will involve looking for signs of swelling and tenderness. The range of motion will also be checked.

Diagnostic Tests

The following tests can help confirm the presence of OA:

  • MRI – magnetic resonance imaging can provide a better image of the cartilage as well as other structures so early abnormalities that characterize OA are detected.
  • X-ray – X-rays are used to check for damage and other changes that might indicate osteoarthritis.
  • Joint aspiration – after numbing the affected area, the doctor will insert a needle into the joint. The procedure is done in order to withdraw fluid from the joint. The fluid will be examined for joint deterioration. Joint aspiration is also used to help rule out other forms of arthritis or other underlying conditions.

What are the treatment options available for osteoarthritis?

OA is a chronic condition.

Fortunately, while there is no cure, there are osteoarthritis treatment options available to help manage the symptoms.

Several factors are considered when managing the condition.

Some of the factors include:

  • Symptoms management (i.e. stiffness, swelling, and pain)
  • Improvement of joint flexibility and mobility
  • Getting sufficient exercise
  • Maintaining a weight that is healthy

The following are some of the ways to effectively manage osteoarthritis:

  • Physical activity
  • Stretching
  • Weight management
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medications
  • Surgery
  • Assistive devices
  • Natural and alternative therapies

Comments are closed.