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Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis and usually occurs later in life (1). It is a degenerative disease that arises because of the deterioration of cartilage that covers the ends of the bones where a joint is formed (2). A healthy cartilage allows the bones to move smoothly against each other and it also functions as a shock absorber.
It is also known as the “wear and tear” arthritis and is mostly seen at the joints of hands, hips and knees (3). Because of the breakdown of the cartilage pain, swelling, and deformity of the joint occurs (4).
The disease advances slowly but may ultimately lead to joint failure and disability (1). In some cases, it becomes difficult for the affected person to do simple daily chores or even move around. The quality of life they lead deteriorates.
Causes of osteoarthritis (2, 3, 5)
The surface of the cartilage at the joints degenerates and the underlying bones start rubbing against each which is the cause of a lot of distress.
- Changes occur in the bones because of the constant rubbing and they worsen gradually. Tiny bone growths also known as bone spurs appear which change the bone shape permanently and also aggravate the pain and swelling.
- When someone has injured a joint but does not give rest to it to heal and over uses the joint osteoarthritis may develop.
- Aging is another factor that increases the risk of osteoarthritis because we would have used or over used our joints for a long time and wear and tear occurs.
- Obesity is one of the causes of osteoarthritis as the joints have to bear the pressure of excessive weight and breakdown of the cartilage occurs.
- Gender is another risk factor, more women than men get afflicted with this degenerative disease.
- Osteoarthritis may run in the family it could be hereditary. Though till now no particular gene has been found to be responsible for it.
Symptoms (3, 5)
- Stiffness of the joints
- Decreased range of motion
- Reduced flexibility and stiffness
- Swelling at the joints
- Grating or crackling sounds when the affected joints are moved
Treatment (3, 4, 5)
The doctor depending on the symptoms and after examining the affected joints and x-ray of the joints diagnoses arthritis. Based on the extent of damage to the joint treatment plan is decided.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that does not have a permanent cure. The symptoms can be managed depending on the extent of damage of the cartilage. A combination of strategies may be suggested by the doctor to manage osteoarthritis.
- If obese try and reduce weight which helps in reducing the stress on the joints and aids in reducing the symptoms. Maintain a good posture.
- Increase physical activity gradually and with experts help, do muscle strengthening exercises.
- Before taking up any exercise talk to an expert so that the right exercise is chosen and that no harm is caused to the already damaged joint.
- Wearing appropriate footwear.
- Use supportive equipment such as cane or crutches to help while doing household work. This reduces stress on the joints.
- Doctor may prescribe medication to reduce pain. In some cases, if no other strategy or combined strategies help surgery may be needed.
- Litwic, A., Edwards, M.H., Dennison, E.M. and Cooper, C. (2013) Epidemiology and burden of osteoarthritis, British Medical Bulletin. Vol.105 (1).
- National Institutes of Health (2018). Osteoarthritis.
- Centers for Disease Control and prevention (2019). Osteoarthritis.
- Cleveland Clinic (2014). Osteoarthritis: What You Need to Know
- National Health Service (2019). Osteoarthritis.