Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints and is caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bones.
It affects joints that are proximal to the ends of the fingers, the base of the thumb, the neck, the hips and the knees.
Causes, Signs and Symptoms
The most common areas affected by osteoarthritis are the elbows, shoulders and ankles. The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unspecified; however, joint damage can be caused by repetitive movement, wear and tear or by injury.
Moreover, mechanical traumas lead to the erosion of the cartilage, this is the part of the joint that protects the distal parts of the bones. Other factors such as aging, being overweight and genetic defects in the joint cartilage may lead to osteoarthritis.
The usual signs and symptoms include pain in the joints, swelling, tenderness in a single joint or more, stiffness following periods of inactivity like sitting or sleeping, a crunching feeling or a sound of bone rubbing another bone.
Diagnosis and Management
Doctors diagnose osteoarthritis by obtaining medical history, performing physical assessment, X-rays and blood tests. What is more they also screen the synovial fluid, the fluid in the joints.
To treat osteoarthritis, doctors usually prescribe treatments that suit the needs, lifestyle and the overall health of the patient. The treatments usually include improving joint function, keeping a healthy body weight, controlling pain and achieving a healthy lifestyle.
One of the most helpful ways in osteoarthritis management is physical activity. Moving is viewed as an important part of the treatment plan. What is more, certain studies reveal that simple physical activities like exercising or walking around the neighborhood can decrease the pain.
Strengthening exercises are also beneficial as muscle is built around the affected joints and this aids in relieving the pain. Moreover, a range of motion exercises contribute to the improvement of the flexibility and reduction of stiffness in the joints.
Weight management and weight loss programs can also help people relieve pain. Excess weight puts pressure and stress to the back, hips, knees and feet which leads to joint inflammation and damage.
To control the pain anti inflammatory medications are also available. These include analgesics such as acetaminophen, narcotics and atypical opioids.