What Is Osteoarthritis?
Millions of people do not know what is osteoarthritis, but continue to suffer silently in pain. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that affects approximately thirty-one million Americans. Initially it was viewed as a normal “wear and tear” phenomenon, but now it has become quite clear that it’s a disease that worsens over time. Osteoarthritis is not a benign disease. Aside from intense pain, it also interferes with the day-to-day life and even leads to functional disability. Eventually, it’s the pain that brings most of the patients to the doctor.
Being a dynamic structure, destructive (catabolic) activities in a joint are finely balanced by building (anabolic) activities. With osteoarthritis, destructive activities gradually take over the building activities. Although the body’s immune system tries to repair it, the attempts are never successful, which ultimately leads to the formation of bony spurs, known as osteophytes.
Osteoarthritis Risk Factors:
There are three main risk factors that may lead to the development of osteoarthritis. They are constitutional (aging and obesity), genetic (family history), and local components (ligamentous laxity, injury, congenital abnormalities).
The development of this disease starts with an injury to the cartilage. Cartilage consists of proteoglycans, matrix that consists of collagen, and cells known as chondrocytes that sit right inside the soup. The injury triggers quick inflammatory response that may lead to the synthesis of joint’s cartilage matrix, which may degrade joints generated by chondrocytes. With time, destructive activities will overtake constructive activities and this abnormal repair mechanism will result in the formation of osteophytes, while affected cartilage continues to degrade.
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are stiffness, pain and intense swelling in joints. There is limited mobility in the affected joint, and there will be an increased sensitivity in the affected area. In some cases, joints may also cause cracking, which is known as crepitus. If the joint is badly damaged, there may be number of progressive deformities.
Osteoarthritis is mostly found in the people above forty, but in rare cases, it is there even seen in a younger age group. Most of the people above sixty show radiographic signs of this disease in one or more joints. In fact, it’s the most common cause of disability with the elderly. Although degradation level may vary in each individual, symptoms are visible in seventy percent of women and sixty-three percent of males above sixty.
Once you know what osteoarthritis is, and are certain that you too are suffering from this disease, you should search for an effective treatment. Its treatment is primarily symptomatic. NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal-Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), analgesics, assistive gadgets such as braces, wedge insoles, walkers, canes, exercises, weight loss, and such. Injections of viscosupplements and glucocorticoids are also very helpful.
Eventually, patients may need joint replacement surgery. Although this surgery has come a long way, there are still many concerns about it. There are possibilities of infection and blood clots. They may last for about 15-18 years, but patients do have some restrictions on their activity level. Finally, less than satisfactory results due to the use of faulty prosthetic devices make this surgery less attractive.