Last updated date: 27-Aug-2023
Originally Written in English
Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most prevalent types of arthritis that affects millions of people around the world. If the protective cartilage cushioning the tips of the bones wears down with time, it causes osteoarthritis. While osteoarthritis can affect any joint, it is most common in the hands, spine, knees, and hips.
As people grow older, the chances of developing osteoarthritis increase. Changes in osteoarthritis normally take several years to manifest, but there are exceptions. The damage and inflammation of the joint result in bony alterations, tendons and ligament deterioration, and cartilage degradation. This eventually causes joint pain, swelling, and even deformity.
Categories of Osteoarthritis
The two main forms of osteoarthritis are;
Primary osteoarthritis: This is the most common and widespread type of osteoarthritis. It mainly affects the wrists, fingertips, hips, spine, knees, and great or big toes.
Secondary osteoarthritis: Emerges in the presence of a pre-existing abnormality of the joint. It can be repetitive or sports-related injury or trauma; inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid, gout, or psoriatic; infectious arthritis; hereditary joint problems, like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hypermobility or "double-jointed"); congenital joint condition; or joint metabolic diseases.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis can develop in any joint. The associated symptoms usually occur gradually and can get worse with time. The common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis can include the following;
Bone spurs: Refers to additional bits of bone that develop within the damaged joint and feel like solid lumps.
Flexibility loss: It's possible that you won't be able to lift your joint fully across its range of motion.
Grating feeling: When using the joint, you can experience a grating sensation as well as hearing crackling or popping.
Pain: The affected joints may hurt during movement or even after.
Stiffness or rigidity: Joint stiffness can be most apparent when you first wake up or after a period of inactivity.
Swelling: The inflammation of the soft tissue within the joint can cause swelling.
Tenderness: When you put light pressure into or near your joint, it can have a tender feeling.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis develops as the cartilage that protects the ends of the bones in the joints deteriorates over time. Cartilage is a tough tissue that allows for nearly frictionless joint movement. However, if the cartilage is entirely worn down, the bone may rub against the bone.
Osteoarthritis is sometimes described as a wear and tear condition. However, osteoarthritis impairs the whole joint, not just the cartilage. It induces bone changes and the connective tissues that keep the joint together and connect muscle and bone to deteriorate. Inflammation of the joint lining is also possible at the lining of the joint.
Risk Factors of Osteoarthritis
The osteoarthritis risk factors that might increase the possibility of the condition include;
Age: Older aged people have increased chances of getting osteoarthritis
Obesity: Excess body weight can cause osteoarthritis in a variety of ways. The more the weight, the higher the risk. Weight gain puts strain on weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. Fat tissue also releases proteins that can contribute to severe inflammation in and around joints.
Gender: Women are at a high risk of developing OA compared to women. The reason behind this is, however, not clear.
Joint injuries: The joint injuries sustained while participating in sports or as a result of an accident might elevate the risk of getting osteoarthritis. Also, injuries that seem to have healed several years ago will put you at risk for osteoarthritis.
Genetics: Certain individuals are genetically predisposed to developing osteoarthritis.
Repetitive strain on the joint: In case your work or a sport you participate in puts repeated stress on your joint, it might develop OA over time.
Deformities of the bones: Some people are born with faulty cartilage or malformed joints.
Certain metabolic disorders: Diabetes and an overabundance of iron in the body (hemochromatosis) are two examples of diseases that increase the chances of OA.
OA diagnosis begins with a physical examination. Here, the doctor will assess the damaged joint for swelling, tenderness, flexibility, and redness. Other diagnostic tests and procedures you might undergo can include;
Your doctor may suggest the following imaging tests to obtain images of the affected joint:
X-rays: Cartilage loss is detected by narrowing of the gap between the bones in the joint, which is not visible on X-ray pictures. The doctor can also view the bone spurs within the joint using the x-ray technique.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This technique utilizes radio waves and a powerful magnetic field. It produces accurate pictures of the soft tissues and bones, as well as cartilage. However, an MRI is not always necessary when it comes to diagnosing osteoarthritis, but it does provide additional details in some instances.
Your doctor can recommend lab tests to verify osteoarthritis diagnosis. These lab tests can include;
Blood test: While no blood test exists for osteoarthritis, some tests may help rule out certain triggers of joint pain, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Joint fluid evaluation: This involves the use of a needle to remove fluid from the damaged joint during a joint fluid analysis. The fluid is then taken to the lab to check for inflammation and identify if your discomfort is due to gout or a particular infection instead of osteoarthritis.
Although it’s impossible to reverse osteoarthritis, the available treatment forms can help ease pain and improve your range of motion.
There are various types of medications that doctors recommend to help alleviate OA symptoms, especially the pain. They include;
Oral analgesics: This includes Tylenol (acetaminophen) and some pain relievers to help alleviate pain and discomforts but not swelling.
Topical analgesics: These are available in the form of creams, patches, and gels over-the-counter. They numb the joint region and give you pain relief, particularly for moderate arthritis pain.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Aleve (naproxen) and Advil (ibuprofen) are examples of NSAIDs that help minimize swelling.
Cymbalta: The doctor can recommend Cymbalta (duloxetine) antidepressant off-label to assist with osteoarthritis pain relief.
Corticosteroids: These are a form of prescription drug that is taken orally. They can also be administered as a direct injection into the joint.
Surgery and other treatment procedures:
When the conservative forms of treatment fail to address the issue fully, the doctor can recommend other osteoarthritis cure and relieve approaches such as;
Lubrication injections: Hyaluronic acid injections can provide pain relief by adding cushioning to the affected knee.
Corticosteroid injections: Injecting corticosteroid drugs can help alleviate joint pain. During this process, the doctor numbs the region near the joint before injecting medicine through a needle into the joint cavity.
Joint replacement: This surgical procedure involves removing the affected joint surfaces and replacing them using metal or plastic parts (arthroplasty). Infections and the formation of blood clots are common surgical threats. In addition, the artificial joints may wear out or become loose over time, necessitating replacement.
Bones realignment: An osteotomy could be beneficial if osteoarthritis has affected one side of the knee compared to the other. A surgeon performs a knee osteotomy by cutting through the bone above or below the knee and then removing or adding a wedge of bone. Your body weight will shift further from the worn-out portion of the knee as a result of this.
Physical therapy: This will help you strengthen and improve the muscles within your joint. It will also enhance your flexibility and minimize pain. Frequent gentle osteoarthritis exercises, including swimming and walking that you do independently, can be just as successful.
Occupational therapy: This will help you learn better ways of doing your daily activities without adding additional stress on the already sore joint.
Osteoarthritis home remedies
At-home remedies and lifestyle modifications for osteoarthritis include;
- Getting enough sleep
Inflammation and swelling associated with OA can reduce through sufficient resting of the muscles. Don't be too hard on yourself, and more so, do not overdo it. Getting quality sleep during the night can also aid in better pain management.
- Cutting off weight
Obesity can put too much strain on the joints, causing discomfort. Excess weight loss aids in the relief of this strain and discomfort. Other health conditions, like diabetes and heart conditions, can also reduce by maintaining a healthy weight.
- Heat and cold therapy
Heat or cold treatment may be used to alleviate muscle pain and rigidity or stiffness. For example, you can put a hot or cold compress to painful joints many times a day for at least 15 to 20 minutes. This will eventually improve the range of motion.
- Using assistive techniques
Assistive tools could be helpful in alleviating joint stress. For example, walking with a cane relieves pressure on the knee and hip. Keep the cane in the hand that is opposite to the painful or affected leg. If you have osteoarthritis in the fingers, grabbing and gripping devices can make it easy to work.
Generally, osteoarthritis is a chronic illness with no cure. However, with the appropriate treatment and therapy, the outcome is good. Therefore, the symptoms of constant joint pain, as well as stiffness, should not be overlooked.
By consulting your doctor early enough, you will get a diagnosis, start treatment, and enhance your overall quality of life. This also reduces the chances of OA-associated complications.