Everything you need to know about Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.

Rishabh Nanavati Created on 15th Mar, 21
Osteoarthritis treatment by Dr Rishabh

The common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, affects many people in Mumbai. It is the main reason why people visit a rheumatologist in Mumbai. Osteoarthritis occurs as the cartilage that protects the ends of your bones wears down. While osteoarthritis can affect any joint, it is mostly seen in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Although the damage to joints cannot be reversed, you can manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Staying active, eating a balanced diet, and taking some medications can help delay the disease's progression. Let us discuss in detail osteoarthritis, its symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, affects millions of people around the world. This disorder occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones breaks off over time. Although osteoarthritis can affect any joint, the hands, knees, hips, and spine are the most commonly affected.

Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis symptoms usually start gradually and intensify over time. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis:

  • Pain: The affected joints will likely pain during or after movement.
  • Stiffness: It can be most apparent when you first wake up or after a period of inactivity.
  • Tenderness: When you apply light pressure to or near your joint, you might feel that the area is tender.
  • Lack of flexibility: You won't be able to move the joint fully across its range of motion.
  • The feeling of grating: When you use the joint, you can notice a grating sensation and hear popping or crackling.
  • Bone spurs: Extra bits of bone may grow around the affected joint, and they might feel like hard lumps.
  • Swelling: This may be due to inflammation of the soft tissues near the joint.

Now that you know the symptoms let us understand the causes of the condition.

What are the causes of osteoarthritis?

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Osteoarthritis occurs as the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in your joints deteriorates over time. Cartilage is a tough, slick tissue that allows for nearly frictionless joint movement. If the cartilage is worn down, the bone may rub against another bone.

Osteoarthritis is sometimes described as a "wear and tear" condition. However, osteoarthritis affects the whole joint, not just the cartilage. It induces bone changes and deteriorates the connective tissues that keep the joint together and connect muscle to bone. Inflammation of the joint lining is also a side effect. 

Even though osteoarthritis is common, some specific people develop the condition more than others.

Who is at risk of developing osteoarthritis?

The following are some of the factors that can raise your risk of osteoarthritis:

  • Age: Osteoarthritis becomes more common as people grow older.
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis, though the explanation for this is unclear.
  • Obesity: Osteoarthritis is caused by excess body weight, and the more you weigh, the higher your risk. Weight gain puts a strain on weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees.
  • Damage to the joints:  Osteoarthritis may be caused by injuries suffered while engaging in sports or because of an accident.
  • Consistent pressure on the joint: If your work or a sport you participate in inputs repetitive stress on a joint, it can develop osteoarthritis over time.
  • Genetics: Most people have the genes of inheriting osteoarthritis from family members and close relatives.
  • Deformities of the bones: Some people are born with faulty cartilage or malformed joints.

Now let us move on to discussing how the condition is diagnosed and treated.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

The doctor will look for tenderness, swelling, redness, and flexibility in the affected joint during the physical exam.

Imaging tests

Your doctor may suggest that you get pictures of the affected joint by:

  • X-rays: With X-ray images, cartilage loss is revealed by a narrowing of the gap between the bones in your joint. Bone spurs around a joint can also be seen on an X-ray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):  An MRI produces accurate images of bone and soft tissues, including cartilage. It does so using radio waves and a strong magnetic field. An MRI isn't necessarily needed to diagnose osteoarthritis, but it does provide additional details in some instances.

Lab examinations

Your specialist can confirm your condition by testing your blood or joint fluid.

  • Blood tests: While no blood test exists to diagnose osteoarthritis, such tests may help eliminate other joint pain causes, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Fluid analysis of the joints: Your doctor can use a needle to draw fluid from an inflamed joint. The fluid is then checked for inflammation or if your pain is due to gout or infection instead of osteoarthritis.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

Osteoarthritis can't be cured, but treatments can reduce the pain and increase your range of motion.

Medications

The following medications can help alleviate osteoarthritis symptoms, especially pain:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Duloxetine(Cymbalta)

Therapy treatment

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will demonstrate exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joints, improve flexibility, and relieve discomfort.
  • Occupational therapy: An occupational therapist may help you figure out how to perform daily activities without aggravating your already sore joint.

Surgery

If conservative therapies are unsuccessful, your specialist will suggest surgical procedures like:

  • Injections of cortisone: Corticosteroid medication injections can help alleviate joint pain.
  • Injections of lubricant: Hyaluronic acid injections can provide pain relief by providing some cushioning in your knee.
  • Bone realignment: An osteotomy may be beneficial if osteoarthritis has affected one side of your knee more than the other. I
  • Joint replacement:  Your surgeon will remove your damaged joint surfaces and replace them with plastic and metal parts during joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty).

What to expect from your rheumatologist?

Some of the questions that might be asked by your rheumatologist include:

  • Is the discomfort constant, or does it come and go?
  • Are there any activities that make the pain go away or get worse?
  • Have you ever had a problem with this joint?

If you have osteoarthritis, consult your specialist. They can help in determining the best treatment option after analyzing your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What osteoarthritis-related questions should I ask?

Ans: The following are some of the questions your doctor will ask you: Where is the pain? 

 

What does it feel like to be in pain?

 

How long have you been suffering from the discomfort? 

 

What aggravates the discomfort and what alleviates it?

 

Are there any additional joints that are bothering you? 

 

Has the joint been hurt before?

Did you know there are some interesting facts regarding osteoarthritis?

In the United States, osteoarthritis is the biggest cause of disability.

 

Osteoarthritis is more common in women than in males...

 

Osteoarthritis can be caused by repetitive activity and trauma.

 

Falling is more likely if you have osteoarthritis.

What effect does osteoarthritis have on daily life?

Some of the symptoms include stiffness and difficulty moving, as well as a loss of muscular tone, strength, and stamina. OA symptoms include fatigue, poor sleep, worry, despair, social isolation, job loss, financial difficulties, and a general reduction in quality of life. 

What's the difference between osteoarthritis' four stages?

There are four stages of osteoarthritis:

Stage 1 is rather minor. The joints are in good condition. There is little to no pain in the affected area.

 

The second stage is mild. The appearance of bone spurs has improved.

 

The third stage is moderate. In the damaged location, the cartilage begins to degenerate.

 

The fourth stage is severe. The patient is in a great deal of pain.

What effect does osteoarthritis have on daily life?

Some of the symptoms include stiffness and difficulty moving, as well as a loss of muscular tone, strength, and stamina. OA symptoms include fatigue, poor sleep, worry, despair, social isolation, job loss, financial difficulties, and a general reduction in quality of life. 

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