What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease and is the most common form of arthritis. It can affect many joints in your body, including your hands, knees, back, neck, and hips.

How Does it Happen?

Cartilage cushions the bones in your joints. When this cartilage starts to wear down, your joints will start to feel irritated and painful, and you can develop osteoarthritis. There are many factors that can lead to this cartilage deterioration, including joint injury and stress, being overweight, having weak muscles, and just getting older.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Usually, osteoarthritis develops over time and worsens as the years go by. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Tenderness in your joints
  • Painful joints
  • Bone spurs
  • Stiffness in your joints
  • Loss of flexibility
  • A grating sensation when you move a joint

How is it Diagnosed?

If you suspect osteoarthritis, your doctor will do a physical exam of the joints affected. He or she may also order imaging tests such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to further study the joints in question. In some cases, your doctor will test the fluid in your joints to check for inflammation or infection. You may also need blood test to rule out other conditions.

How is it Treated?

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are many treatments that can help alleviate pain. You may benefit from over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers, as well as pain management injections of cortisone. Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy, which will help you learn exercise to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Working with an occupational therapist can also help you find ways to make everyday tasks less painful.

In some cases, surgery can help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms. In total joint replacement surgery, your surgeon removes the damaged joint and replaces it with a metal and/or plastic prosthesis. Other surgeries can realign bones or fuse bones together to reduce pain and increase joint stability.

What is the Prognosis?

For many people, living with osteoarthritis is a balancing act. They can manage pain on a day-to-day basis and learn to avoid activities that make their pain worse. If you opt for surgery, you may need a few weeks to recover, but in most cases, pain is drastically reduced or eliminated.