What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis explained by San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas Texas top pain doctors
Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that is relatively widespread in some demographic groups, particularly older adults. It is a degenerative disorder of the protective material, known as cartilage, around the surfaces and other functional parts of many joints. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that may grow progressively worse over time. Though some forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, may affect other parts of the body including some organs, osteoarthritis only affects the joints.
Osteoarthritis is strongly associated with advancing age. Most cases are seen in those aged 60 years or older. Cases of osteoarthritis in younger individuals are also possible, but are normally related to direct damage to a joint through injury or similar events that increases the risk of early-onset osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is associated with a number of symptoms. Some or all of them may be present in each individual patient. These may include:
- Pain that can become chronic
- Increased stiffness in the joint or joints affected
- Reduced mobility in the joint or joints affected
The symptoms of osteoarthritis often begin at a low level and then progress and increase over time. They may appear to remit in some cases, only to recur later. Some patients afflicted with osteoarthritis may also develop calcified spurs in the bones of finger or toe joints. These nodes may be noticeable, red, and painful. They may cause impaired dexterity and stiffness in the hands or feet.
Causes Of Osteoarthritis
Cartilage is present within joints to prevent the effects of mechanical damage or brute force that may damage a joint and impact its normal function. It also protects against bone-on-bone contact that would impede the ability of the joint to bend, flex, or relax freely, and thus affect normal function and movement considerably.
Osteoarthritis involves the loss of cartilage from a joint or joints, resulting in symptoms such as pain and stiffness. This often occurs in small degrees over time; thus this is why osteoporosis is often associated with old age. Advanced cartilage loss results in exposed bone surfaces, which is also associated with pain. The exposure of one bone surface to another may also increase the risk of the loss of material in these through increased wear and tear. This contributes to further joint damage.
Osteoarthritis is also associated with excessive inflammation in an affected joint, which also contributes to pain. Osteoarthritis may develop in many of the joints present in the body, including the hip, knees, and spinal joints.
Osteoarthritis often begins without noticeable symptoms and only impacts life quality when cartilage loss has progressed enough to elicit characteristic signs of the disease. As outlined above, the condition is associated with older age groups; 34% of people over 65 are thought to have osteoarthritis.
The probability of osteoarthritis development may also be influenced by other factors. These include conditions such as diabetes (in combination with age and increased bodyweight), pre-existing deformities or decreased stability in joints, genetic factors, and joint wear resulting from repetitive strain.
Treatments For Osteoarthritis
Therapies that completely reverse the effects of osteoarthritis have not yet been developed. However, there are a range of treatments that may manage the symptoms of pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. These include drug therapy that reduces inflammation and pain. Drugs for osteoarthritis include oral steroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
If these lines of treatment prove ineffective, patients may consider other procedures associated with more long-term pain relief. These involve the injection of drugs such as lidocaine, bupivacaine, or steroids into the joint affected by osteoarthritis. Joint injections may treat pain effectively while also improving movement and quality of life. These procedures may need to be repeated in accordance with the duration of relief experienced by each individual patient.
Complementary therapies may focus on non-pharmacological approaches to flexibility and mobility improvement, rather than adding more drugs. Examples of these additional treatments include physical therapy and exercise therapy.
Other complementary therapies include biofeedback training. This is education and training in coping and relaxation techniques. These are used when the patient experiences flare-ups of pain. Patients use devices and techniques that track changes in their vital signs in response to pain, which indicate when they should apply relaxation skills. This may contribute to osteoarthritis management for some patients.
Certain dietary and lifestyle modifications may contribute to the control of osteoarthritis symptoms, particularly at their onset. These include the reduction of red meat intake, and increased intakes of foods with high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. Adding more fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables to the diet is also linked to improvements in osteoarthritis.
Some other forms of alternative treatment, such as acupuncture, may also be of some benefit, in conjunction with other treatments for pain.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive loss of cartilage from its normal location around joints. This may result in chronic pain, increased inflexibility, and immobility. Osteoarthritis may result in detriments to normal function and quality of life. This condition may be associated with risk factors such as advanced age, certain medical conditions, repetitive stress, and mechanical damage.
There is no cure for this condition, so treatment for osteoarthritis focuses on the management of symptoms. This may be achieved by the combination of oral medications and physical therapy. Patients in more severe chronic pain may consider direct joint injections. Effective and optimal osteoarthritis treatment may result from consultation with a pain specialist.
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