Osteoarthritis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options

Arthritis means inflammation in your joints. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease is the most common type of arthritis. It is related to a breakdown of cartilage in joints. This can occur in almost any joint in the body. However, osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the weight bearing joints of the knees, spine and hips. It can also affect the neck, fingers, thumb and large toe. It is usually not common in other joints unless injury or excessive stress in inflicted.

Although with age, the chance of developing osteoarthritis increases, but even people in their 20s and 30s can get the disease. Among people over the age of 50, more women than men get osteoarthritis.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis? 
Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
  • Joint ache and soreness, especially with movement
  • Stiffness and pain in joint after overuse or long periods of inactivity
  • Bony enlargements in the middle and end joints of the fingers that can be painful
Osteoarthritis is not associated with fever, weight loss, or anemia. If these symptoms are present in someone with osteoarthritis, they are caused by a condition unrelated to the osteoarthritis.

What are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?
Factors like obesity, heredity, injury or overuse of certain joints can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis. Apart from these factors people born with joint deformities are at a high risk to develop osteoarthritis.

In certain cases, some people have an inherited defect in one of the genes responsible for making collagen which is a major component of cartilage. This causes defective cartilage, resulting in more rapid deterioration of joints.

People born with an abnormality of the spine are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the spine.

Apart from genetic and heredity factors, obesity also considerably increases the risk for osteoarthritis. Thus maintaining a healthy weight or losing excess weight can help prevent osteoarthritis or decrease the rate of development once the disease is diagnosed.

Injuries are another major factor contributing to the development of osteoarthritis. For example, athletes who have knee injuries may be at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee.

Lastly even overuse of certain joints increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. For example, activities requiring repeated bending of the knees, increases the risk for osteoarthritis of the knee.

What are the Treatment Options for osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis treatment would include reducing stress on the joints, physical therapy and exercise, heat or cold application to the painful joint, medicines, and use of supportive devices such as canes. However, if the condition is severe and when other treatment options become ineffective in relieving pain, then surgery can be considered.

Osteoarthritis treatment aims at accomplishing the following:
  • Reduction of joint pain and stiffness
  • Improvement of joint mobility and stability
  • Increasing the ability to perform normal daily activities
The method of treatment prescribed by the doctor depends on factors like person’s age, activities, occupation, overall health, medical history and severity of the condition.

When Is Surgery Necessary for Osteoarthritis?

Surgery is considered only when your osteoarthritis is severe and the pain is preventing you from performing your normal daily activities. Thus it can be concluded that surgery is an option only when medication and all other treatment fail

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