Osteoarthritis

<p">Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common ailment affecting joints today. Occurring mostly in the knees, hips, lower back and neck, osteoarthritis can also affect the small joints of the fingers as well as the base of the big toe and thumb, causing pain and limiting one’s range of movement.

Depending on the severity of the condition, osteoarthritis affects people differently. Most of the time the wearing of joints occurs very gradually over the course of many years. Mild cases are relatively able to be managed and constitute only a minor nuisance while living day-to-day.

More severe cases can limit mobility or the willingness to participate in daily activities due to the pain and discomfort resulting from osteoarthritis. This condition can make it hard to complete tasks involved with self-care, often discouraging people from working to treat osteoarthritis with healthy exercise.

Learning about how osteoarthritis is affecting you can open the avenue for treatment and managing the condition. As a condition almost synonymous with growing older, osteoarthritis (OA) affects nearly 27 million Americans and half of all people over 65.

What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of osteoarthritis often develop slowly and have a tendency to worsen over time. The main signs and symptoms include:

  • Joint pain during / after movement
  • Tenderness in joints while pressure is applied
  • Stiffness and loss of flexibility or range of motion
  • Audible or tactile grinding sensation
  • The formation of bone spurs (hard lumps near / around joint)

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Every bone has connective rubber-like tissue called on the either end, which provides a smooth gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion. When this tissue breaks down, the result is pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the joint.

Eventually, it is possible for small pieces of bone and cartilage to chip off, causing growths known as spurs. When the cartilage has finally worn away, bones rub against one another leading to further damage and even more discomfort.

Diagnoses of Osteoarthritis

To start, doctors will provide a physical examination of your affected joints, looking for things like tenderness, swelling or redness, and evaluating your range of motion. Next, they may recommend imaging or lab tests.

X-rays: Although cartilage doesn’t show up on x-ray images, the lack of cartilage will, indicating a narrowing of space between joints. This may also reveal bone spurs or other anomalies.

Blood and Joint Fluid Analysis: There is no blood test for osteoarthritis, although such analysis can reveal whether not the symptoms are caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors may also examine fluids from an affected joint to determine if the discomfort may be a result of gout or infection.

What are the Treatments for Osteoarthritis?

Right now, the underlying conditions which cause osteoarthritis cannot necessarily be reversed, however, it is possible to manage symptoms once they have expressed themselves.

Medications like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be effective for some people, although exceeding the recommended dosage may cause liver damage. Others like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can typically relieve osteoarthritis pain as well.

Physical therapy aimed at strengthening the muscles around the affected joints can also be a great way to increase your range of motion and reduce pain. Some of the best exercises for seniors include swimming, walking, tai chi, yoga, or any other low impact activities.

Finally, severe cases may warrant surgery to realign bones or reduce spurs causing the pain. Some may even require total joint replacement, commonly used in the hip, knee, or shoulder. Other procedures include injections of cortisone used to numb joints or even lubrication injections, although the effectiveness of this method is still in question.

<p">If you are experiencing mild to severe discomfort as a result of osteoarthritis, contact your doctor today to explore what options are available.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does osteoarthritis impact daily life?

Depending on the severity of the condition, osteoarthritis affects people differently. Most of the time the wearing of joints occurs very gradually over the course of many years. Mild cases are relatively able to be managed and constitute only a minor nuisance while living day-to-day.

More severe cases can limit mobility or the willingness to participate in daily activities due to the pain and discomfort resulting from osteoarthritis. This condition can make it hard to complete tasks involved with self-care, often discouraging people from working to treat osteoarthritis with healthy exercise.

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How is Rheumatoid Arthritis different from Osteoarthritis?

With Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the body attacks the lining of joints as if it were trying to fight an injury or disease. Just like a cut on your finger can cause inflammation, RA leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints that can last for hours at a time. Similar to other autoimmune diseases, people with RA will often feel tired or feverish. To treat this condition, doctors will often prescribe DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), which can help with inflammation and tiredness.

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