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All You Need To Know About Osteoarthritis

Updated on April 20, 2012

How Do I Know if I am Suffering From Osteoarthritis?

  • Is your age 40 or above?
  • Do you have stiffness in one or more of your joints on waking up in the mornings?
  • Does the stiffness go away on its own in a little while regardless of activity?
  • If yes, Are you overweight?
  • Does your work involve lifting weights regularly? or bending or kneeling?
  • Have you been told that you are deficient in Vitamin D?
  • Has an X-Ray of the troubled joint showed reduced joint space in a previous report?

If you think you are suffering from osteoarthritis, you should consult your health provider, AND this hub is for YOU!

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a painful, degenerative joint disease that typically affects the middle-aged. It usually starts as pain in one of the weight bearing joints, most commonly the knee. But it can start from almost any joint, except the metacarpophalyngeal and wrist joints, which are involved in rheumatoid Arthritis. The onset of symptoms is slow and insidious, with an aching joint, which is stiff on waking up. The stiffness subsides in about 20 minutes, and the rest of the day is spent with relatively little discomfort in early disease. later on there is pain on movement of the joint, regardless of the time, and worsens with activity or lifting weight. This pain is relieved with rest. Other joints that may be involved are the Distal and Proximal Interphalyngeal joints (the finger joints beyond the ones that join the fingers to the palm), ankles, toes and the lower backbone as well as the neck (cervical spine).

If it has started with the backbone in your case, your doctor might want to run some tests on you as other bone diseases need to be ruled out eg osteoporosis, multiple myeloma and metastasis.

The joints involved are swollen but aren't warm. They feel hard and cool on touch, and the involvement of the characteristic joints in the fingers make it for a straightforward diagnosis.

Risk Factors:

Osteoarthritis is extremely common. Over 90% of people over the age of 40 years have radiological changes attributable to Osteoarthritis.even so it's more common in certain populations. Obesity is an avoidable risk factor, If you are overweight you have increased chances of developing degenerative joint disease.

Competitive sport and careers that require a lot of weight bearing and bending are also known to tip the scales in favor of the disease.

Preexisting joint conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Occupational overuse of a joint, Metabolic diseases such as hyperparathyroidism, neurological disease and injuries, like a fracture may all cause secondary osteoarthritis.

What Would Your X-Ray Report Say?

Your joint x-ray report is the only thing that will tell you specifics about your condition.

It will likely say that

1. The joint space is reduced.

2. There is osteophyte formation and lipping of marginal bone.

3. thickened, dense subchondral bone.

bone cysts may also be noted on x-ray.

What Are The Treatment Options?

Before thinking about which pill to pop/ who to go to; think about a couple of lifestyle modifications;

If you are diagnosed with a mild or moderate osteoarthritis of the weight bearing joints, consider a bit of cautious physical activity, like a supervised walking program or tai chi classes. Water therapy (hydrotherapy) is also a good option.

Analgesics and Anti-inflammatory medication. Acetaminophen (Paracetamol/Tylenol/Panadol) is your safest bet for as long as the pain is controlled enough to carry out routine activities. It has the best safety profile and is easily available over the counter. It helps in mild to moderate degrees of osteoarthritis.

If the disease is severe or the pain unrelieved with over-the-counter medication, your options are slightly reduced in the matter of medication, as you now may have to switch to NSAIDS, that's short for Non steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugS.. No mystery there.. Your doctor will help you with choosing the one best suited to you, since a number of factors need to be considered in deciding the "right" medicine for a patient, including your general health, a history of or current gastrointestinal disease, history of or present liver problem, bleeding disorders and also other medication you might be taking, etc. Since osteoarthritis is NOT an inflammatory condition, high doses of NSAIDs are neither indicated nor advised. Avoid the urge to up your dose on your own, even in severe pain.

Caipsaicin is a capsicum derivative that has shown to help a whole lot when applied to the painful joints in a dosage of 0.0025 to 0.0075 mg.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulphate whether used separately or in combination have helped some people with pain and progression of disease but that effect is not documented.

Intra-articular injections are indicated if the joint also has effusion (fluid accumulation). Intra-articular Triamcinolone (20-40mg) is known to have reduced or completely removed the need of oral pain killers.

Sodium hyaluronate as an injection helps with symptoms in some people, so is worth a shot!

Intra-articular steroid injections are totally safe if administered thrice or four times a year and no more.

Another drug that seems promising is good old Doxycycline. It may help stopping the disease in an earlier stage or atleast slowing it down some.

ACE Neoprene Open Knee Brace, One Size Fits All
ACE Neoprene Open Knee Brace, One Size Fits All

I should mention the absolute beauty of joint supporting devices like this knee support. These are practical and provide a much needed hug to the ailing joint. I have yet to hear a complaint about this one; on the flip side you might experience some initial pain while your knee gets used to it.


Preventing Osteoarthritis

reducing your weight is the biggest favor you can do your joints. Eat healthy, keep your weight in check, exercise regularly. avoid overusing any one joint. monitor your Vitamin D levels. This last bit of advice, if followed, will go a long way in preventing Osteoarthritis.

Surgical Interventions

Some will say arthroscopic surgery helps but data suggests otherwise. Joint replacement surgery is a better and effective procedure.

Autologous transplantation of cartilage is in experimental stages and the medical community is expecting encouraging results.

Most importantly, don't let your spirits take a nose dive because of the pain and discomfort, relax and use whatever makes you feel better to alleviate the symptoms. Chronic pain is a cause of depression, so if you find yourself scared and hopeless, if you feel helpless in the face of adversity, if you are easily annoyed and feel agitated most of the time, then you should consider seeking help. Always remember "This Too, Shall pass".


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