Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting 10% of the population. Osteoarthritis affects both men and women with women having a higher rate of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis rates increase sharply after the age of 50.
The whole joint and the tissue around it can be affected by osteoarthritis, including the muscle around joints, tendons, joint capsule, and the cartilage inside. In the end stage of osteoarthritis, the cartilage that cover the bone inside the joint wear off leading to bone grinding on bone. This creates a painful sensation when weight is put on them, such as during walking, standing up, and climbing stairs.
As the condition progresses, pain and swelling of the affected joints become more frequent and even persistent. The joints may become crooked looking.
Almost any joint can be affected. However, osteoarthritis commonly develops in the knees, hips, spine, and hands.
The first symptom of osteoarthritis is a pain around the affected joint(s) after a period of prolonged or strenuous use, such as after a long walk or exercise. The pain increases with continued use of the joint, but usually subsides after sufficient rest. At the beginning, the pain often comes and goes, and may become persistent pain over time.
Mild stiffness usually sets in when the joints have been rested (“gelling”). Therefore, if you’ve been sitting still for some time, your hips and knees may feel stiff upon standing again. Some patients may have warm feeling in the joint and even see the joint swelling. Worsening of pain and stiffness with weather change is a common compliant. Over time, the affected joint(s) may look crooked. If knees are the affected joints, they may become bow looking.
The most important thing that reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis is maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in moderate exercise and eating a healthy diet. Prevention of injuries to joints minimizes risk of osteoarthritis.
The primary cause of osteoarthritis is increasing body weight and increasing age. Apart from ageing, overweight and obesity are the main causes of osteoarthritis. The load to the knee joints for example is as much as four-times of one’s body weight on every step he / she walks. Weakness of muscles around the joint, previous injuries to the joint and heavy manual occupational overuse are also a common risk factors.
Osteoarthritis can arise as a side effect of other problems that put abnormal stress on the joints, such as abnormally shaped hips and knees (added stress is placed on these joints when a person moves), a previous fracture or injury involving the joint.
Other form of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis can cause damage to joints. However, these arthritis are relatively uncommon in the general population.
If a patient exhibits the symptoms of osteoarthritis, the doctor can confirm the diagnosis by a typical symptom profile and physical examination. X-rays can sometimes assist doctor in making a diagnosis.
Very occasionally, additional tests and procedures may be needed, mainly to exclude other possibilities of joint problem:
There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis. Hence, sustained and increasing research is necessary. Treatment of osteoarthritis focus on alleviating its symptoms, regaining lost muscle strength and surgery.