Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Know about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis in detail

3 min read
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Osteoarthritis is one of the common forms of arthritis which affects millions of people across the globe. It affects the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones and thus wears down over time.

Osteoarthritis can cause damage in any joint but mostly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine. The symptoms of osteoarthritis can be managed but the damage to the joints can't be reversed.

Approximately 80% of adults who are 55 years or older suffer from symptoms of osteoarthritis. As per an estimate, 240 million adults worldwide suffer from symptomatic osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis: Signs and Symptoms 

According to the doctors of Cleveland Clinic, the most common symptoms of OA include:

  • Joint pain

  • Stiff joints

  • Lack of flexibility

  • Limited range of motion

  • Tenderness in muscles

  • Discomfort when pressed on the affected areas

  • Inflammation

  • Crepitus, grating, crackling, clicking, or popping sounds while moving the joints

  • Painless bone spurs, or extra lumps of bone

Osteoarthritis: Causes & Risk Factors 

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage cushioning the bones of your joints gradually deteriorates. For the people who don't know what cartilage is, cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that enables frictionless joint motion.

If the cartilage wears down completely, there will be friction between the bones.

Osteoarthritis is referred to as wear and tear disease. Osteoarthritis not only results in the breakdown of cartilage but affects the entire joint. It causes changes in the bone and damage to the connective tissues (responsible for holding the joints together and attaching the muscles to the bone). It also causes inflammation of the joint lining.

According to the doctors of Mayo Clinic, factors that can increase your risk of osteoarthritis include:

  • Older age

  • Gender as women are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.

  • Obesity: Extra body weight contributes to osteoarthritis. Increased weight on the weight-bearing joints like hips and knees can cause harmful inflammation in and around the joints.

  • Joint injuries during sports or accidents can increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

  • Repetitive stress on the joints might eventually develop osteoarthritis.

  • Some people develop osteoarthritis due to genetics.

  • Some people are born with bone deformities, malformed joints, or defective cartilage.

  • Certain metabolic diseases like diabetes can also increase the chances of osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis: Diagnosis 

According to Healthline, osteoarthritis is a disease that develops slowly and it becomes difficult to make the diagnosis until it starts to cause painful or debilitating symptoms. OA is often diagnosed after an accident or incident that causes a fracture that requires an X-ray.

Besides X-rays, your doctor may use an MRI to diagnose OA.

Other tests include a blood test to rule out other conditions that may be causing joint pain, such as RA. A synovial (joint) fluid analysis to determine whether gout or infection is the underlying cause of your inflammation, may also be done.

Osteoarthritis: Treatment 

According to MedicalNewsToday, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Mild to moderate symptoms can be managed by a combination of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments. Medical treatments include:

  • Medications (topical pain killers and oral analgesics including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs).

  • Exercise to improve flexibility.

  • Intermittent hot and cold packs.

  • Physical, occupational, and exercise therapy.

  • Doctors may recommend weight loss if overweight is the cause

  • Healthy eating habits to manage diabetes and cholesterol.

  • Supportive devices like braces, orthotics, shoe inserts, cane, or walker to make life easier.

  • Intra-articular injection therapies

  • Complementary and alternative medicine strategies with vitamins and supplements.

Surgery is an extreme treatment option to relieve pain and restore function when any other medical treatments do not work, especially with advanced OA.

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Topics:  Osteoarthritis 

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