What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative bone disease that’s usually found in people over the age of 50. As the most common type of arthritis, Osteoarthritis primarily affects the cartilage – causing “wear and tear” around the ends of bones that meet to form a joint. People with Osteoarthritis experience joint pain and stiffness, along with swelling and tenderness. They may also hear a ‘crackling’ sound when they move the affected joints. Some people experience mild symptoms that can appear and disappear. Others experience continuous symptoms that make everyday activities a challenge. While osteoarthritis can affect any number of joints; areas such as the small joints in the hands, along with the knees and hips are most commonly affected. If the symptoms of osteoarthritis persist, it’s important to see your GP who can assess and carry out a diagnosis, or prescribe any treatment as necessary.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Everyday living exposes joints to a constant low level of damage. There are various factors that can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis including:

  • Joint injury – Or overusing the joint when it hasn’t had enough time to heal, for example after an injury or operation 
  • Secondary arthritis – This occurs when joints are severely damaged by a previous or existing condition, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Gout  
  • Age – Risk of developing conditions such as Osteoarthritis increase as you get older  
  • Family History – It may run in families, but studies haven’t identified if a single gene is responsible  
  • Obesity – Being extremely overweight can put excess strain on the joints, particularly on the knees and hips that bear most of the weight
In Osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage on the ends of the bone breaks down. The result is pain, swelling and difficulties moving the joint. As a result, bony growths develop and the joint area can become red and swollen. Prolonged stiffness in the joints may be a sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
   

Treatment For Osteoarthritis

While it can’t be ‘cured’, symptoms of Osteoarthritis can sometimes gradually improve. Avoiding activities that cause injuries can also minimise risk. Mild symptoms are often managed by regular exercise, weight loss, wearing appropriate footwear, and using special devices that can reduce joint strain during everyday activities. More severe symptoms may require additional treatments such as surgery. Exercise that puts a strain on the joints or forces them to bear an excessive load is best avoided, for example running or weight training. Try swimming or cycling instead as these provide better support for your joints. Losing weight also lowers the chances of the condition developing. Maintaining a healthy posture can also help. Don’t stay in the same position for extended periods of time. Desk workers may also want to ensure their chair is at the correct height, while taking regular breaks for moving around. Osteoarthritis sufferers need to ensure they are receiving the support necessary to cope with any issues relating to reduced mobility. Talking to your GP or other osteoarthritis suffers may help with this process.