Osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease and the most common form of arthritis in the UK. Sometimes coined “wear and tear arthritis”, it affects the joints, causing pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis is found in the knee in most cases, but can also cause detriment to the hips, fingers, the spine and feet.  

Causes

Osteoarthritis is caused when the protective cartilage on the ends of bones breaks down, hence the “wear and tear” element of the disease. When a joint develops osteoarthritis, part of the cartilage thins and the surface becomes rougher, resulting in movement that is more rigid than it should be.

There are some factors that are known to increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Bony growths can form and develop, leading to the area becoming red and swollen.

As with all types of arthritis, the older generation is most at risk of developing osteoarthritis as bones, muscles and joints weaken. Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.

Obesity is a cause for concern, as extra weight adds strain onto joints, making them work harder. In turn, overusing your joints is also a cause of osteoarthritis, particularly if that joint has not had enough time to heal.

If somebody in your family has the disease, then you are likely to be more genetically predisposed to osteoarthritis.

A joint injury such as a break or tear is another common cause of the disease. Osteoarthritis can present itself as a secondary kind of arthritis, after a sufferer’s joints have already experienced damage from another condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms

There are many symptoms of osteoarthritis that could help towards the diagnosis of the disease. Some people notice sporadic “flares” in symptoms, whereas others suffer on a more regular basis. You should seek help from a medical professional when you observe persistent symptoms, which include:

  • Swelling and a feeling of tenderness around the joints
  • Aches and pains during physical exertion or at the end of a day
  • Joint stiffness usually early in the morning and after periods of rest
  • Muscle weakness around the joint
  • A clicking or cracking sound around the joint
  • Buckling, i.e. your knee giving out.

Diagnosis

If you believe that you may be suffering with osteoarthritis, one of our experts will examine your joints and ask you about any symptoms that you are experiencing. If your symptoms are less common, diagnostic tests such as an X-Ray, an MRI, a joint aspiration in which a needle is inserted into the joint to draw out fluid, or a blood test may be undertaken to reach a diagnosis and rule out other causes.

Treatment

Medication can be prescribed to help a patient live more easily with osteoarthritis. These primarily focus on reducing pain. Another treatment method is cortisone injections to relieve joint pain.

Although osteoarthritis cannot be cured and the damage cannot be reversed, it can be treated so that unpleasant symptoms are managed. There are various lifestyle choices that you can make to help lessen your symptoms, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if necessary
  • Practising stretching exercises advised by a professional which promote joint movement and prevent stiffness
  • Visiting a Physiotherapist, an Occupational Therapist or a Chiropractor for advice on specific movements.

Surgery

In more severe cases of osteoarthritis, when previous attempts at controlling symptoms haven’t been successful, the option of surgery is explored.

If the pain is located within the hip or knee, a joint replacement, also known as arthroplasty, may be necessary.

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