Arthritis is inflammation in the joints. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. This is the most common type of arthritis which is the breakdown in cartilage and can occur in almost any joint in the body. This happens most commonly in weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees and spine.
In a normal joint, cartilage covers the end of the bone to reduce friction and serve as a “shock absorber.” This being a shock absorber it has the ability to change shape when it’s compressed. Cartilage will become stiff and lose it’s elasticity in people who have osteoarthritis and this makes them more susceptible to damage. When cartilage is wearing away the tendons and ligaments stretch which can cause pain and deterioration even to the point of no cartilage. This then results in bone rubbing on bone.
Osteoarthritis affects nearly 21 million Americans. The chances of someone developing osteoarthritis increases with age and most people over 60 have one form of it or another. Young people can develop this as well. Over the age of 50 more women then men will develop osteoarthritis.
Symptoms develop gradually and include:
- Joint aches and soreness, especially with movement
- Pain after overuse or periods of inactivity
- Bony enlargements in the middle and end joints in fingers
- Joint swelling and joint fluid accumulation
Factors that increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis include:
- Overuse of joints
Factors on how your health care professional comes to the diagnosis that you have osteoarthritis:
- Description of symptoms
- The location and pattern of pain
- Certain findings on physical examination
The use of x-rays will help confirm the diagnosis and determine how much joint damage has occurred.
If fluid has built up in the joints a procedure could be done to remove the fluid. This procedure is called joint aspiration. This can also rule out other diseases.
Treatments are usually physical therapy with muscle strengthening exercises, oral medications, hot and cold compresses applied to the joint, removal of joint fluid, injection of medication to the joint, supportive devices (canes or crutches) and weight management.
Some pain relieving medications include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory medications (Advil, Aleve, and Aspirin). Some medications come in the form of rubs, creams, and sprays that you put right on the skin. For more severe cases of pain, steroids can be injected right into the joint but these are not recommended for long term use due to the increase in bone and cartilage deterioration. None of these methods of treatments will reverse or slow the progression of joint damage caused by osteoarthritis.
Surgery is an option for people when medication and other treatments mentioned aren’t working. The most common type of joint surgeries are hip and knee replacements, but remember that an artificial joint does not have the mobility that a natural joint does but an artificial joint reduces the pain associated with osteoarthritis.
If you experience these problems or have concerns regarding osteoarthritis contact your health care professional for further evaluation.
Have a safe and healthy July.