Also known as degenerative joint disease or wear and tear arthritis, osteoarthritis
is the most prevalent type of arthritis. The cartilage (a protein substance
present in all joints, this substance serves as a cushion in between the bones)
in the joints deteriorates over time thus leading to osteoarthritis. In the
United Sates, around 20 million people suffer from osteoarthritis. Before the
age of 45, men are more susceptible to osteoarthritis while after the age of 55;
women are more susceptible to osteoarthritis. Generally women are more at risk
of osteoarthritis when compared to men.
Osteoarthritis can affect any
joint in the body but it largely affects the joints of the hips, feet, knees,
spine and hands. The weight bearing joints get affected the most due to
osteoarthritis. Usually a single joint is affected due to osteoarthritis but if
osteoarthritis sets in the finger joints, it can affect more than one joint at
the same time. There is no particular cause for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis that
occurs without any underlying cause is referred to as primary osteoarthritis, whereas
osteoarthritis with an underlying cause is referred to as secondary arthritis.
Causes for osteoarthritis
Aging: Protein content of the cartilage drops and water content
increases with age. This will degenerate the cartilage thus causing
Obesity: Increased mechanical stress on the joints due to excess
weight can cause osteoarthritis. The knee joint, in particular, unable to take
the excess weight will degenerate thus leading to osteoarthritis.
Congenital abnormalities: People who are born with abnormally
shaped joints face the threat of osteoarthritis as their joints are put to
undue stress thus causing early deterioration.
Injury: Any external injury can cause degeneration of the joints
thus leading to osteoarthritis.
Heredity: In remote cases heredity can be a cause for osteoporosis
Symptoms of osteoarthritis
Symptoms for osteoarthritis vary from person to person depending on the severity of the problem. The most
commonly prevalent symptoms for osteoarthritis are:
- Tenderness/softness of the joints even when light
pressure is applied to the joint.
- Creaking/annoying feeling in the joint.
- Warmth in the joint.
- Fluid retention in few cases
- Pain in the joint while using the joint, after use of
the joint or after a prolonged period of rest of the joint.
- Bone spurs in the form of lumps occur in the joint.
- Reduced flexibility of the joint.
- Swelling of the affected joint.
- Stiffness of the joint, particularly in the mornings while you get out of the bed
and after a prolonged period of rest.
Diagnosis of osteoarthritis
X-ray: An x-ray can reveal the extent to which the joint is
affected. Bone spurs and narrowing of the joints can also be identified through
Arthroscopy: Small incisions are made on the affected joint and a
small viewing tube is placed inside the joint space to examine the damage of
the cartilage and ligaments.
Blood tests: Blood tests can help exclude other diseases that can cause
Arthrocentesis/ joint fluid analysis: Fluid from the joint is drawn
using a long sterile needle. This fluid is analyzed for determining the cause
for the pain.
Treatment for osteoarthritis
Rest: Rest can help the joints recover to a great extent
Weight reduction through diet control: Reducing weight can help
relieve the strain on the joints thus reducing pain.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles
around the joints thus reducing the pain. Physical therapy also improves the
mobility of the joint.
Medications: Medications including anti-inflammatory lotions and non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for osteoarthritis
Heat and cold treatment: Applying heat and cold packs alternately
on the affected joint can relieve pain to a certain extent. While giving heat
pack, do not use really hot pack; use a warm pack instead. For cold pack, use
Limited and correct exercise: Exercises can help relieve pain, only
that you should do the correct exercises and should not overdo them.
Support devices: Support device like splints, braces, walkers,
canes etc can offer extra support for the affected joint.
Surgery: For patients suffering from acute osteoarthritis, surgery
is the final respite. Surgery is particularly helpful for patients who have not
responded to any of the above mentioned treatments.
Prevention of osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis cannot be prevented but the pain can be prevented to a certain extent. Follow these
simple but effective steps to prevent excessive pain from osteoarthritis.
- Take the prescribed medications regularly
- Eat a healthy diet comprising whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables
- Use the right footwear
- Use support devices if recommended by your physician
- Maintain a good posture
- Do not strain unnecessarily
Osteoarthritis of the hip is the
most common type of osteoarthritis as the hip is a weight-bearing joint.
Degeneration of the articular cartilage (the smooth lining that covers the
surface of the ball and socket joint of the hip) causes osteoarthritis of the
hip. Americans are highly susceptible to osteoarthritis of the hip; 1 out of
every 5 Americans is expected to develop this problem.
Causes of hip osteoarthritis
Congenital hip disease: People who are born with abnormally shaped
joints face the threat of osteoarthritis as their joints face undue stress thus
causing early deterioration.
Fracture of the hip: Fracture of the hip can cause problems in the
alignment of the hip bones thus causing osteoarthritis of the hip
Any injury of the hip: Any external injury causing damage to the
hip joint can cause osteoarthritis of the hip
Age: Wear and tear of the hip joint can cause degeneration to the
surface and the alignment of the hip joint thus causing osteoarthritis of the
Obesity: Excessive weight can add on to the stress to the hip joint
thus causing degeneration of the hip joint thereby causing osteoarthritis of
Symptoms of hip osteoarthritis
- Stiffness in the morning as soon as you get out of the bed
- Pain in the front portion or side portion of the thigh and in the groin area
- Restriction in motion
- Limping while walking
- Stiffness of the hip if you sit for long period
- Creaking/annoying feeling in the hip joint.
Osteoarthritis of the hand
affects the joint at the base of the thumb (basal joint), finger joints (joint
close to the nail and the joint in the middle of the finger) and in the wrist.
When osteoarthritis affects the thumb basal joint, it is very painful and patients
find it difficult to hold or grasp anything.
Causes for osteoarthritis in the hand
Wear and tear: The joints of the hand are put to continuous use all
our lives therefore the wear and tear due to continuous use can cause
degeneration of the joints thus leading to osteoarthritis of the hand
Injury: Any external injury can cause degeneration of the joints
thus leading to osteoarthritis
Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the hand
- Swelling and stiffness
- Difficulty to move the joint/limited movement of the joint
Bony nodules i.e. small swelling or knots, these knots
are called as Heberden's nodes when they appear in the joint close to the nail
and as Bouchard's nodes when they occur in the joints in the middle of the