Introduction to Osteoarthritis (OA)
In continuation to yesterday’s article on rheumatoid arthritis (RA), today we’ll discuss osteoarthritis (OA). It has been found that OA is the most common form of arthritis. The symptoms are similar to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the sense that pain and joint stiffness are the main symptoms.
What causes OA?
RA happens when the synovium becomes inflamed when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, which is described as an autoimmune disease. In the case of OA, it happens when the cartilage gradually wears down, making the bones rub against each other. OA is also described as wear- and-tear arthritis, degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease.
First, we need to understand what cartilage is and its main function. Cartilage is a flexible rubbery substance that is tough. It covers the ends of bones that are inside your joints and its function is to protect the joints and allow easy movement without friction.
The ends of the bones become damaged and rough from wear and tear, when the cartilage thins down over time which leads to intense pain, swelling, inflammation and joint stiffness whenever you move. It should be noted that the cartilage doesn’t have any blood vessels hence it cannot repair itself and the damage done is permanent.
Its known that mostly the elderly suffer from this though in some instances, OA can occur in adults as well. The wear and tear of the joints will be more evident as a person grows older.
Past injuries (ligament tears, torn cartilage, dislocated bones) also contribute to the symptoms of OA. Other related factors that contribute to OA includes bad posture, joint malformation, and being overweight. OA is also determined by gender and family history (it could be hereditary).
The Symptoms of OA
The common body parts which are affected by OA are the hips, hands, fingertips, knees, neck or the lower back.
The pain becomes worse as the disease progresses on. This will eventually lead to the swelling of not just the joint, but the surrounding areas as well.
What happens when it becomes more severe?
OA has five stages of progression starting from 0 to 4, with 0 being a representation of a normal joint and 4 being the severe stage. If diagnosed and treated early, the person may not progress all the way to stage 4.
The most severe case of OA is when the person has completely lost his or her cartilage in one or more joints. The friction between the bones will cause agonising pain along with swelling and inflammation. Further pain and increased swelling can be caused by small bits of broken cartilage that float in the synovial fluid.
People suffering from OA will have a limited or reduced range of motion as it will hurt while moving during day to day activities. The stiffness of the joints will lead to instability when you move. The joints can suddenly cave in which can cause falls and other accidents.
Another symptom that comes out of OA, is bone spurs, which are extra bone growths that grow on existing bones.
How to diagnose OA?
Its normally diagnosed through X-rays where medical practitioners can see the wear and tear of the bones. Aside from X-rays, medical practitioners can use MRI scans as another method of diagnosis or a blood test.
How can we treat OA?
OA is best treated according to patients’ symptoms depending on the five stages and where the pain originates. Your doctor may prescribe medication for pain relief or in some cases physiotherapy to reduce joint stiffness. Your doctor may also advise exercise to improve joint flexibility and assist with managing the pain.
Proper weight management will help lessen the strain on your joints, particularly your knee joints.
Proper sleep habits can help you cope with the pain better as well as reducing the swelling and inflammation.
Ice packs or heating pads will offer relief to the swelling temporarily.
In conclusion, as mentioned in yesterday’s article, it is important to seek medical attention if you have symptoms of pain and swelling in your joints, as early intervention coupled with the correct medication and lifestyle changes have proven successful in allowing an OA or RA sufferer to continue to function and lead a fairly normal life.
25th April 2020 17:35
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