Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease that affects joint cartilage and tissues. It’s the most common type of arthritis, and it’s generally associated with aging. When you develop osteoarthritis, it’s a disease of an entire joint — bones, ligaments, cartilage, and joint lining tissues — rather than one part. Osteoarthritis results in pain and stiffness, and it can lead to mobility loss.
Osteoarthritis symptoms do not usually hit all at once — they develop slowly over time. Symptoms include:
- Joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and/or tenderness. Stiffness might be worse after inactivity.
- Loss of flexibility.
- Grating sensation. You might hear popping or cracking when moving the joint, or feel grating in the joint.
- Bone spurs
Some OA symptoms are specific to certain body parts:
- Hips. Pain in the hip joint, groin, buttocks, and sometimes on the inside of the knees or thighs.
- Knees. Grinding or scraping that occurs when flexing the joint.
- Fingers. Swelling, tenderness, redness, and pain caused by bone spurs or growths.
- Ankles and toes. Swelling caused by joint inflammation
Research is not conclusive on what begins the deterioration of a joint in osteoarthritis. In its most common form, it is a degenerative joint disease that breaks down tissue. The slippery cartilage protecting the ends of bone degrades and may wear away completely. Damage spreads to the entire joint, and tissues become inflamed.
Several factors can increase risk for OA.
- Sex, age. Osteoarthritis affects more women than men. And the risk of OA increases with age — symptoms of osteoarthritis generally affect those over 50.
- Obesity. Weight increases stress on joints. Also, excess fat cells promote inflammation, leading to more pain.
- Prior joint injuries.
- Repetitive motions.
- Bone deformities
- Metabolic diseases. Diabetes and hemochromatosis — a condition where someone has excess iron in their body — are associated with OA
Osteoarthritis worsens over time. Joint pain and stiffness result in less movement, and range of motion becomes limited. Sleep may be disturbed, and anxiety and depression are common.
A review of symptoms and medical history, a physical exam, and other tests may be performed to determine whether a person has osteoarthritis.
Image tests. MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasound may be used to gain greater insight into the extent and form of arthritis.
Lab tests. Blood tests can rule out other joint pain sources, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Joint fluid analysis, in which fluid is drawn from an affected joint, can indicate whether pain is coming from gout or infection.
OA has no cure, but symptoms can be managed.
- Lifestyle choices. An increase in exercise and physical activity improves strength and flexibility. Weight loss and a healthy diet may improve conditions.
- Medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen may help with pain. NSAIDS — such as ibuprofen and naproxen — reduce inflammation and pain. More powerful NSAIDS are available with prescription.
- Therapy. Physical therapists help patients build the right muscles for better support of joints. The therapists can demonstrate exercises to build core strength, increase flexibility, and relieve pain. Protecting joints helps prevent future problems. Low-impact, low-stress activities like walking, biking, or swimming can help, too.
- Surgery. Cortisone injections may offer relief for a few weeks. Surgical bone realignment can help when one side of a knee joint is damaged more than the other side. Joint replacement replaces damaged bone and tissue with metal and plastic parts, but carries possible health risks.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from osteoarthritis, contact the professionals at Florida Medical Clinic. Our Department of Rheumatology is dedicated to providing you with consultative, diagnostic, and therapeutic services to help you reclaim your quality of life. Contact us today for an appointment.
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