Osteoarthritis is a chronic joint condition that occurs when the cartilage breaks down and the bones in the joints start to rub against each other. Cartilage is a tissue that covers the end of the bones in a joint. While osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, it is common in areas like the hands, hip, shoulders, knees, spine, and fingers.
Studies have shown that the condition is common in people over 60. That said, it is worth noting that this condition can also affect adults. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that over 32.5 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis. As can be seen in another report from the CDC, osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis.
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Types of Osteoarthritis
There are two main types of osteoarthritis. Below is an overview of each of them:
Primary osteoarthritis occurs naturally as we age. It is common in people between the ages of 50 to 60. Experts have pointed out that everyone will experience cartilage breakdown as they age. For some, though, the breakdown is so severe that their bones start to rub against each other.
This is when cartilage breakdown is a result of a specific trigger. Below are some common triggers of secondary cartilage breakdown:
- Injury: Bone fractures can increase the odds of you developing osteoarthritis from their disruption of the joints.
- Obesity: Weight gain puts serious pressure on the knees, hips, and other joints. This speeds up the breakdown of cartilage in the joint.
- Inactivity: Inactivity can weaken the muscles and even cause obesity. When the muscles are weak, the joint will not align properly. This, thus, will increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Below are some common symptoms that may be encountered:
- Loss of muscle mass
- Severe pain and stiffness in the joint
- Cracking sound when the joints are moved
- Loss of flexibility
- Presence of bone spurs
- Discomfort when touching and pressing the affected area
As the condition progresses, the pain associated with it becomes more intense.
Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis
To determine if a patient has osteoarthritis, a doctor will ask about the symptoms they are experiencing and carry out a physical exam. Below are a few other tests they may conduct afterward: Blood Test: This is done to determine if the symptoms experienced by the patient are caused by a condition other than osteoarthritis. X-Rays: X-rays can provide clear images of the bones in the affected area. If a physician notices bone spurs in the image, chances are, the patient has osteoarthritis. Joint Fluid Analysis: During this procedure, a needle will be used to collect fluid from the affected area. The fluid will be taken to a lab for examination. This test is done to narrow down the cause of the issue and rule out conditions, like gout.
How to Treat Osteoarthritis
The type of treatment recommended is based on factors like the severity of the symptoms and the region they live in. After considering these factors, your doctor may recommend the following:
- Topical Pain Relievers: This includes products like patches, creams, and gels. They help to reduce the pain in the affected area(s).
- Cymbalta: This is an FDA-approved medication that can help address musculoskeletal pain.
- Oral Pain Relievers: These are medications that help quell the pain associated with the condition. It is important to note that they don’t reduce swelling.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These include medications like Aleve and Motrin. They can reduce both pain and swelling.
- Surgery: A surgical procedure may be recommended if the joints are severely damaged and other treatments didn’t improve the condition.
How to Manage Osteoarthritis
This condition can be managed through exercise-based solutions like: Aquatic Exercise: A 2015 study found that aquatic exercises helped older patients living with osteoarthritis. Weight Loss: A report from the Arthritis Foundation found that an additional 3 lb of stress is added to the joints for every pound a person gains. The pressure may cause the cartilage to break down quickly. Weight loss can reduce the pressure on the joint. What’s more, it can reduce the stiffness and pain associated with the condition.
- What factors increase the chance of getting osteoarthritis? The following factors can increase the likelihood of you developing osteoarthritis:
- Being above 60
- Metabolic disease
- Stress on the joint
2. When should I seek medical attention? While osteoarthritis isn’t a life-threatening condition, it is wise that you seek prompt medical attention before it worsens. Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!