Whenever someone says they are suffering from arthritis, most of the time they are referring to Osteoarthritis. Arthritis is an umbrella term housing 100s of bone conditions, out of which osteoarthritis is the most prominent. It affects about a million people worldwide. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that provides the cushioning effect to the joints gets worn out over time. The main joints to be affected by osteoarthritis are the hands, knees, spine, and hips.
The complication of osteoarthritis are manageable, but the damage it does to the joints is irreversible. The most effective way to manage osteoarthritis is to maintain an active lifestyle along with proper treatment to slow the treatment of this disease.
What are the causes of osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the direct result of damage to the cartilage which is a slippery and firm tissue that exists between the ends of bones in the joint and provides frictionless movement. Repetitive stress is the major cause of damage done to the cartilage, hence people of old age are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis because their joints have undergone more stress.
Not only age but the damage can also be caused by past injuries like dislocation of joints or ligament damage. Obesity is also one major factor in developing osteoarthritis. Being obese puts excess stress on the joints which burdens them and makes the cartilage between the joints wear off way before it usually would have.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis progresses slowly and few symptoms occur since the beginning of the disease, and their conditions worsen as the disease progresses. The signs and symptoms include
– Swelling: When tissues around the joints get inflamed they appear as swelling around the joints
– Pain: One of the key symptoms of arthritis is joint pain which happens during or after movement is done.
– Loss of flexibility: The ability of the joint to move freely is lost gradually
– Stiffness of joint: This is also one of the key symptoms of osteoarthritis
– Bone spurs: They are extra parts of bones that feel like a hard lump around the joint
Risk factors for osteoarthritis
Certain factors if present increases the chances of one getting affected by osteoarthritis.
– Joint Injury In the past: Injury incurred to a joint while playing sports or due to an accident, makes the joint vulnerable to osteoarthritis in the future.
– Obesity: Having excess body weight puts strain on the joints especially the knees and spine hence making them more prone to osteoarthritis.
– Gender: Men are more likely to develop gout and other types of arthritis whereas women are more prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis.
– Age: Just as is the case with almost every disease, the risk of one getting affected with osteoarthritis increases by manifolds.
– Family History: There are some types of arthritis that run in families, in that case, if the parents and siblings have arthritis, the person is most likely to develop it in the near future.
Methods of diagnosis for osteoarthritis
The primary mode of diagnosis involves a thorough investigation of the joint pain along with a report of the history of any such events in the family history. A physical examination will be performed in which the range of motion of the joints will be tested, along with the search for areas of swelling around the joints.
Further tests involve imaging tests which might include any of the following
– X-rays: X-rays can reveal cartilage loss, bone deterioration, and bone spurs by using low doses of radiation to see bone. The main use of X-rays is for measuring the progress of the disease.
– Tomography via computer (CT): CT scanners use a combination of X-rays from various angles to provide cross-sectional views of inside structures.
– MRI Scans: MRIs provide more accurate pictures of soft tissues such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments by coupling radio waves with a powerful magnetic field.
– Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves are used to image soft tissues, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures around joints with this method (bursae). Ultrasound can also be used to guide the positioning of needles for extracting joint fluid or injecting drugs into the joint.
While a blood test can’t actually be used to detect if one has arthritis, if the case suspected is of rheumatoid arthritis, or gout, undergoing a blood test may help in proper diagnosis by providing an insight into the levels of uric acid or inflammatory proteins.
Methods of treatment of osteoarthritis
The main problem is there is no actual cure for osteoarthritis as it can’t be reversed, but there are methods of treatments that can help in managing the condition and intern the overall health.
Non-surgical methods of treatment include
– Medication: Anti-inflammatory and pain relief drugs can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Biologics are drugs that target the immune system’s inflammatory reaction, they are prescribed for people suffering from rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis
– Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help one increase their strength, range of motion, and overall mobility. Professional therapists can prescribe what modifications are to be done in the daily activities to minimize the discomfort caused due to arthritis.
– Occupation therapy: An occupational therapist can help device means to make everyday tasks easier by reducing the time the joint affected with arthritis has to withstand
Surgical and miscellaneous methods of treatment involve
– Joint replacement: This procedure involves replacing the damaged joint with an artificial plastic joint. This procedure is most commonly used for hip and knee joints.
– Joint repair: For certain cases, the surfaces of bones in direct contact can be smoothed and realigned. This relieves the pain and improves the functioning of the joint.
– Joint fusion: This procedure is carried out for small joints eg the joints in the wrists. This method involves removing the ends of both the bones in direct contact and locking them together until they join as one.
– Lubrication injections: Hyaluronic acid injections are given to people to provide temporary pain relief by providing cushioning effect to the damaged joint.
– Cortisone injections: Cortisone helps to numb the pain for a few weeks but its use is usually limited to three to four times a year as it can actually worsen the condition of the joint.
Home Remedies and Alternatives
– Heat and Cold: The use of heating pads or ice packs help relieve pain caused due to arthritis.
– Exercises: Regular light exercises help keep the joints supple, the best exercise for arthritis will be swimming as water prevents sudden movement of joints and buoyancy reduces stress on the joints.
– Losing Weight: Cutting down the extra weight reduces the stress imposed on the joints and hence reduces the damage and pain due to arthritis.
– Acupuncture: Acupuncture involves the use of hair-thin needles inserted to precise points to relieve pain
– Omega-3 fatty acids: Consumption of omega 3 helps in relieving pain and improves body functions. Omega 3 is found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements
– Avoiding tobacco and its products
– Doing light weight exercises
– Maintaining body weight at healthy levels