According to representatives of the Arthritis Foundation (arthritis org), osteoarthritis (OA) is a “degenerative joint disease” that currently affects more than 20 million Americans. Additionally, it “can affect any joint, but it occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe.”
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
In the past, many people believed that “stiff” joints were a sign of old age; however, medical specialists now realize that osteoarthritis is actually a disease that affects people of all ages and should be treated as such. Research has shown that the following health issues can cause osteoarthritis.
• Osteoarthritis can be genetic. Numerous studies have shown that some people are unable to produce enough collagen, which is the basis of cartilage, for their joints to function properly. This condition can cause various forms of arthritis.
• Osteoarthritis is linked to obesity. Research has shown that excess body weight puts excess pressure on joints, especially knees. Failure to lose weight can cause the cartilage between the joints to deteriorate.
• Osteoarthritis can be caused by excessive exercise. In a bit of irony, people who are athletic, especially runners and professional athletes, are at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis due to excessive use of specific joints. Additionally, sports-related injuries such as torn tendons and fractured or broken bones can also lead to the development of osteoarthritis.
• Osteoarthritis can be caused by other forms of arthritis. People living with rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis are at risk of developing osteoarthritis. Additionally, clinical studies have shown that other health conditions such as lupus, fibromyalgia and hemochromatosis can also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.
What are Some Early Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Knee?
Common complaints include mild to severe pain, swelling and stiffness when walking or exercising, especially after extended periods of inactivity such as sleeping. Hearing joints “clicking” when flexing the knee or walking is another common complaint. Left untreated, these symptoms eventually get worse, which can cause limited range of motion or total immobility.
What Treatments are Available to People Living with Osteoarthritis?
In order to determine if an individual is indeed living with osteoarthritis, health practitioners will typically perform a battery of tests and conduct an extensive medical history. In addition to a physical exam, the specialist may also use X-rays, blood work, and MRI.
Unfortunately, as of the date of this article, there is no cure for osteoarthritis; however, once healthcare specialists are certain that their clients have osteoarthritis; they will often employ a number of therapeutic measures to help improve their clients’ quality of life.
Health care specialists often employ prescription-based or over-the-counter drug therapy for clients living with osteoarthritis. These drugs typically include corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as well as analgesics or “pain relievers” such as acetaminophen and opioids. People living with osteoarthritis may also be advised by their primary physician to adopt an alternative diet and exercise regime.
Additionally, according to Stephanie Watson, a contributing author of Medical News Today (medicalnewstoday.com), “an assistive device, such as a cane or walker” can also be beneficial to people living with osteoarthritis by taking “some of the weight off of the knees.”
Depending on their age and physical limitations, people living with osteoarthritis who are unable to leave home can use various in-home health care companies such as Salus Homecare.