It is characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the bone ends and the underlying bone within a joint.
It is most prevalent in adults with increasing age and occurs mainly after age 40. Women suffer more from osteoarthritis than men, especially after 50 years old.
Osteoarthritis can damage any joint, but mainly affects the hands, neck, lower back, hips, knees, and foot. It is one of the leading causes of disability among older adults.
The risk factors for developing osteoarthritis can be modifiable and non-modifiable. The modifiable factors include:
- excess weight
- joint trauma from sports, work or accidents
- occupation that entails mechanical stress such as heavy lifting, bending of joints, and repetitive actions such as is seen in laborers, farmers, and construction workers
- lack of exercise
- other chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism or gout
- estrogen deficiency
- people with weak muscles or defective cartilage, joint and bone deformities.
The non-modifiable factors are increasing age, and gender, race, and genetic predisposition.
Signs and symptoms
- pain at rest or with movement
- locking of the joint
- joint effusion
- loss of flexibility
- joint stiffness, especially after periods of inactivity such as sleeping
The symptoms worsen with time as the protective cartilage that enables smooth movement of the bones in the joint wears down. Gradually bone start to rub over bone during movement, often creating a grating sound.
No cure exists at this time for osteoarthritis, however, treatment is available to relieve the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease so that quality of life and function can be unaffected or improved.
Patients and family members can be educated to effect changes in behavior that promotes the disease (see modifiable risk factors above).
Treatment also includes physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the joint, increase the joint flexibility and reduce the pain; weight control; braces splints or shoe inserts to help relieve weight off the joint; and medication.
Source: Dr. Romayne Edwards