What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (AH-stee-oh-ar-THREYE-tis) is the most common type of arthritis and is seen especially among older people. Sometimes it is called degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis mostly affects cartilage (KAR-til-uj), the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another. It also absorbs energy from the shock of physical movement. In osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, small deposits of bone -- called osteophytes or bone spurs -- may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space. This causes more pain and damage.
People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and stiffness. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joint function. It does not affect skin tissue, the lungs, the eyes, or the blood vessels.
In rheumatoid arthritis, another common form of arthritis, the immune system attacks the tissues of the joints, leading to pain, inflammation, and eventually joint damage and malformation. It typically begins at a younger age than osteoarthritis, causes swelling and redness in joints, and may make people feel sick, tired, and feverish. Also, the joint involvement of rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical; that is, if one joint is affected, the same joint on the opposite side of the body is usually similarly affected. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, can occur in a single joint or can affect a joint on one side of the body much more severely.
Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
Pain. Your joint may hurt during or after movement.
Tenderness. Your joint may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it.
Stiffness. Joint stiffness may be most noticeable when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
Loss of flexibility. You may not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
Grating sensation. You may hear or feel a grating sensation when you use the joint.
Bone spurs. These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, may form around the affected joint.
When to see a doctor
If you have joint pain or stiffness that doesn't go away, make an appointment with your doctor.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits nearly frictionless joint motion.
In osteoarthritis, the slick surface of the cartilage becomes rough. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone.
Factors that may increase your risk of osteoarthritis include:
Older age. The risk of osteoarthritis increases with age.
Sex. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, though it isn't clear why.
Obesity. Carrying extra body weight contributes to osteoarthritis in several ways, and the more you weigh, the greater your risk. Increased weight puts added stress on weight-bearing joints, such as your hips and knees. In addition, fat tissue produces proteins that may cause harmful inflammation in and around your joints.
Joint injuries. Injuries, such as those that occur when playing sports or from an accident, may increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Even injuries that occurred many years ago and seemingly healed can increase your risk of osteoarthritis.
Certain occupations. If your job includes tasks that place repetitive stress on a particular joint, that joint may eventually develop osteoarthritis.
Genetics. Some people inherit a tendency to develop osteoarthritis.
Bone deformities. Some people are born with malformed joints or defective cartilage, which can increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that worsens over time. Joint pain and stiffness may become severe enough to make daily tasks difficult.
Some people are no longer able to work. When joint pain is this severe, doctors may suggest joint replacement surgery.
During the physical exam, your doctor will closely examine your affected joint, checking for tenderness, swelling or redness, and for range of motion in the joint. Your doctor may also recommend imaging and lab tests.
Pictures of the affected joint can be obtained during imaging tests. Examples include:
X-rays. Cartilage doesn't show up on X-ray images, but cartilage loss is revealed by a narrowing of the space between the bones in your joint. An X-ray may also show bone spurs around a joint. Some people may have X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis before they experience any symptoms.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of bone and soft tissues, including cartilage. An MRI isn't commonly needed to diagnose osteoarthritis but may help provide more information in complex cases.
Analyzing your blood or joint fluid can help confirm the diagnosis.
Blood tests. Although there is no blood test for osteoarthritis, certain tests may help rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Joint fluid analysis. Your doctor may use a needle to draw fluid out of the affected joint. Examining and testing the fluid from your joint can determine if there's inflammation and if your pain is caused by gout or an infection.
How to Prevent Osteoarthritis
There are about 100 different types of arthritis. In general, arthritis means problems with the joints. A joint is a place in the body where 2 bones meet. Arthritis may also affect other body tissue near the joints including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. And, in some forms of arthritis, the whole body is involve Osteoarthritis (OA) is sometimes called degenerative joint disease or wear-and-tear arthritis. It is the most common type of arthritis. In OA, the cartilage wears away. Cartilage covers the ends of bones and acts as a cushion. If enough cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone. The joint changes in OA cause pain, stiffness, and trouble with movement.
Can you prevent OA?
OA is called wear-and-tear arthritis because it is a result of using joints every day. The older a person gets, the greater the wear-and-tear. You can’t completely prevent OA. But there are things that you can do to help lessen every day stress on your joints and make it less likely that OA will happen, or get worse.
Maintain your ideal body weight
Extra weight puts stress on your joints, especially your hips, knees, ankles and feet. And extra fat actually causes changes in the cartilage cells. If you are overweight, talk with your healthcare provider about safe ways to lose weight.
Control blood sugar
High blood sugar levels raise your risk of getting OA.
Be active every day
Exercise is the best way to prevent joint problems. It helps to keep joints from getting stiff and keeps muscles strong. It's also an important part of the treatment of arthritis. Try for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Talk with your healthcare provider about safe exercise for you. You can also try the Arthritis Foundation's Walk With Ease program.
Avoid injury to joints
Joint injuries increase your risk of getting OA. When you exercise, start slowly and work up to your goal. Each time you exercise, take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up with gentle movements and stretches. This helps to prevent injuries to muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Think about changing your exercises and activities each day. You will use different parts of your body and help to avoid stressing the same joints every day.
Be careful with your daily activities. Some activities put stress on joints. For example, it is much safer to carry heavy bags of groceries close to your body in paper or cloth bags instead of using fingers and hands on plastic bag handles.
Use exercise equipment and protective gear as instructed. Make sure your safety gear is comfortable and fits well.
Pay attention to pain
If you have joint pain lasting 1 to 2 hours after activity or exercise, you may have done too much. Rest the joint. Try an ice pack to relieve pain.
Talk with your healthcare provider about using ice packs and pain medicine before and after you exercise. Taking good care of yourself by keeping a healthy weight and exercising every day helps to prevent joint problems and helps you stay healthy.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease where the pathological changes in the joint are almost irreversible. Homeopathic medicine can alleviate the pain significantly but cannot cure the disease completely. Most cases respond well as far as the long-term pain relief is concerned. Homeopathic medicines are definitely suggested for osteoarthritis, especially for early cases where the medicines can slow down the degenerative process and offer considerable pain relief