Osteoarthritis is a gradually worsening disease manifested by inflammation and swelling of the joints. This disease is usually a result of wear and tear of the joints between the bones over the years.
Affecting almost 20 million individuals in United States alone, this disease is the most common type of arthritis all over the world. The most common part of the body that gets affected by this disease this are the joints in the back (joints in the spine), neck, knees, hips, hand joints such as fingers, thumbs and foot joints like the big toe. Osteoarthritis affects most in individuals after age 45.
This disease involves the gradual worsening of the condition of the cartilage with propagation of the bone. Thus, the condition accumulates and develops risk factors that increase along the process. Examples the risks are genetics, joint integrity, local inflammation, cellular process and mechanical forces. Other health factors like obesity also increase the chance of development of this disease. Age is one of the most influential factors that lead to development of this illness in the joints.
This disease is characterized by stiffness and joint pain. Because of the inflammation and pain, range of motion of the joint will certainly be limited. Everyday activities that rigorously use the affected part can worsen the condition, which can be very painful. The inflammation and stiffness of the joints usually occur in the morning, but normally disappears after 30 or more minutes with rest and recurs sometime during the day due to prolonged activity in the affected area.
In physical exams, you may see the joints in the affected area to be tender; this means it has more serious disease. Osteophytes of bone spurs, effusions or fluid in the joints and crepitus or sounds produced of the rubbing bone are some manifestations of an osteoarthritis-affected joint.
Our cartilage is a smooth elastic tissue that cushions between the ends of our bones. This cushion system allows easy movement of the joint while protecting the ends of the bones from crushing together. In the case of osteoarthritis disease, the long years of rigorous use of the joint cause the cartilage along the joint to wear, this leads to change of cartilage surface to rough from smooth. Direct injury and accidents can occasionally deteriorate the cartilage and cause arthritis in the long run.
When the cartilage gets thinner, the ends of the bones will start to meet and rub each other, causing inflammation in the affected area. Because of the constant crushing of the bones, the joint may develop lumps or spurs. As the joint swells, the affected area will lose its flexibility leading pain when used and bring weather-induced discomfort.
Doctors normally observe the symptoms of the disease first before giving patients any medications. Tests such as physical examination and x rays are needed to determine the severity of the condition. Osteoarthritis can be treated through exercise programs to bring back the strength and flexibility of the stiffened joint. In severe condition, medications and therapy are needed to cure the illness.
It is very important to have the affected area evaluated by the doctor as soon as possible, because when the joint gets fully damaged, it can’t be repaired by any medication and there will be no other choice but surgeries, joint replacement therapy, which can be very expensive.