Osteoarthritis is a common joint disease that affects people middle aged and up. It is a disease of the entire joint, including the bones, cartilage, and ligaments. This type of arthritis is also commonly referred to as wear and tear of the joint. Arthritis not only occurs in the knee joint, but also in the hands, hips and great toe joints. This article will focus on osteoarthritis of the knee. Continue to learn about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a slow progressive joint disease that is typically seen in elderly people. If you have osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the joints breaks down causing the bones to swell slowly. The reason for this breakdown of cartilage is due to mechanical stress or biochemical changes taking place within the body.
Who Is Most Likely to Suffer From Osteoarthritis?
Anyone can develop osteoarthritis, whether male or female, but people above 40 years of age are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than others. The other risk factors of osteoarthritis include:
- Old age
- Family history of osteoarthritis
- Past history of trauma to the joint
- Repetitive use or overuse of the joints
- Deformity of the joints
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
The symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Swelling of the affected joint
- Reduced movement of the joint
- A noise with the movement of the joint
How is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
The most suitable specialist for this kind of medical problem is a rheumatologist. If you demonstrate any of the above symptoms, consult your rheumatologist, or ask your general practitioner to refer you to one. They will take a full medical history from you and do a complete physical examination. A physical examination of your joint and your history alone will be enough to make a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. But in some cases, investigations like an X-ray of the affected joint will be useful to explain the extent of the disease and help to rule out any other probable joint problems.
How is Osteoarthritis Treated?
There has been no proven treatment recognized to reverse the joint damage of osteoarthritis. The aim of management is to reduce pain and improve the function of the joint and thus improve the patient’s lifestyle. This aim can be met with a combination of lifestyle changes, drug therapy, and sometimes surgery.
- Lose weight - Since the knee is one of the joints that bears the entire weight of the body and therefore is more prone to develop osteoarthritis, it is useful for overweight individuals to lose some of the weight to reduce the stress on their knee joints. The extra weight puts additional stress on your knee joints.
- Exercise – Regular exercise will also improve the muscle strength and reduce the joint pain and stiffness, thus lowering the chance of disability to the joint.
- Use some form of a support such as a walking cane or an orthotic to help you carry out your daily activities with ease.
- Heat or cold therapy – Apply some heat or some ice over the affected joint to reduce the pain and stiffness for a short period of time.
Since there is no cure for osteoarthritis, drug therapy will only provide symptomatic relief. Painkillers will be prescribed to relieve joint pain. These may be available in the form of oral tablets or gels where you can apply them over the affected joint. Patients with severe pain will require stronger painkillers, such as narcotics.
If it is difficult to manage with just painkillers, then corticosteroid injections can be given. These are sometimes also known as corticosterone shots. They are injected directly into your joints and can provide months of pain relief. These are also beneficial in delaying a knee replacement surgery for a few more years in some patients.
Surgery is considered in patients with severe symptoms and for those who have failed to respond to drug treatment. It is also considered in patients who is experiencing major loss in the mobility of the joint.
The options of surgical therapy include arthroscopy, where the surgeon try to repair the joint via a small incision on your joint, and joint replacement surgery where the surgeon will replace the entire knee's joint. Although it sounds scary, these are very common procedures.
- Osteoarthritis is a slow progressive joint disease that is typically seen in elderly people.
- It is the wear and tear of the joints