What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs most often in older people. This disease affects the tissue covering the ends of bones in a joint (cartilage).In a person with osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes damaged and worn out causing pain, swelling, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected joint. This condition most commonly affects the joints in the hips, knees, hands, and spine. Rarely, the disease may affect the shoulders, wrists, and feet.
Osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing out of the cartilage covering the bone ends in a joint. This may be due to being overweight, excessive strain over prolonged periods of time, previous fracture, growth abnormalities, joint diseases, injury or deformity.
Some people have congenital abnormalities of the joints that cause early degeneration and subsequently cause osteoarthritis.
Doctors diagnose osteoarthritis with a medical history, a physical examination and X-rays of the affected joint. During the physical examination, your doctor will examine the affected joint for swelling, pain, tenderness, and assess the joint’s range of motion. An X-ray of the knee may show a loss of the joint space and bone spur formation.
There is no blood test for osteoarthritis.
Management of Osteoarthritis
There are several treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help you ease your pain and symptoms.
- Medications: Pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors and opioids may be prescribed. Topical medications such as ointments can be applied over the skin where there is pain. If the pain is very severe, corticosteroid injection can be given directly into the affected joint to ease the pain.
- Other treatments: Your physiotherapist will teach you exercises to keep joints flexible and improve muscle strength. Heat/cold therapy which involves applying heat or cold packs to the joints provides temporary pain relief. Lifestyle modifications can be done to control weight and avoid extra stress on the weight-bearing joints.
- Surgery: Joint replacement surgery is considered as an option when the pain is so severe that it affects your ability to carry out normal activities.
There is no known cure for osteoarthritis. However, there are several treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help you ease your pain and symptoms. The objective of the treatment is to reduce pain, improve joint movement, and prevent further damage to the joint. The treatment of osteoarthritis involves:
Medications may include different classes such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, artificial joint fluid injections, and other drugs.
There are many factors that determine the success of osteoarthritis treatment. Some of these include:
- Severity of your condition
- Extent of injury/how advanced the disease is before you get help
- Your overall health
- Presence of associated/other diseases
- The specific technique performed to treat the condition
- Your doctor/surgeon's experience and skills
Following osteoarthritis treatment, you will be given some instructions that will help your joint heal as well as prevent further damage. Please follow these instructions carefully to ensure complete healing.
Some of the lifestyle modifications include:
- A moderate exercise program
- Use of heat or cold treatments
- Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Getting adequate rest
- Losing weight
- Protecting your joints with the use of assistive devices such as splints or braces to support the weakened joints
Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to keep joints flexible and improve muscle strength.
Surgery is usually considered if non-surgical treatment fails to provide relief. Joint replacement surgery is considered an option when the pain is so severe that it affects your ability to carry out normal activities.