Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by aging joints, injury, and obesity. OA symptoms include joint pain and stiffness. Treatment depends on the affected joint, including the hand, wrist, neck, back, knee, and hip, and involves medication and exercise. If you are overweight, weight loss may improve OA symptoms.
Primary osteoarthritis is mostly related to aging. With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases and the protein makeup of cartilage degenerates. Repetitive use of the joints over the years causes damage to the cartilage that leads to joint pain and swelling. Eventually, cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses. In advanced cases, there is a total loss of the cartilage cushion between the bones of the joints. Loss of cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and limitation of joint mobility.
Secondary osteoarthritis is caused by another disease or condition. Conditions that can lead to secondary osteoarthritis include obesity, repeated trauma or surgery to the joint structures, abnormal joints at birth (congenital abnormalities), gout, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other hormone disorders.
Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints. Unlike many other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, osteoarthritis does not affect other organs of the body.
The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain in the affected joints after repetitive use. Joint pain is usually worse later in the day. There can be swelling, warmth, and creaking of the affected joints. Pain and stiffness of the joints can also occur after long periods of inactivity, for example, sitting in a theater. In severe osteoarthritis, complete loss of cartilage causes friction between bones, causing pain at rest or pain with limited motion.
Blood tests, X-rays, MRIs: there are many ways of diagnosing osteoarthritis.
Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and using special devices to help you get around can also have a big impact on your symptoms. Medications such as pain relievers and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs can help slow the joint damage and improve symptoms.
If joint pain or damage is so severe that medication isn’t working, your doctor may talk to you about having surgery.