X

Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Expert Views

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a disease in which the joints of your body are affected. It is a form of arthritis and is characterized by swelling and pain in the joints. It also influences the motion of your joints.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Bones are made of a protective cartilage. Cartilage is a tissue that is coated at the end of the bones. The cartilage breaks down over a period of time. A healthy cartilage is supposed to absorb the shock that is created during any sort of movement. Due to the wear and tear of the cartilage, the bones are left with no protective layer and end up rubbing against each other. Constant rubbing of the bones against each other over a long time can destroy the joint permanently. Osteoarthritis is likely to affect people who are:

Osteoarthritis Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of osteoarthritis develop very slowly but get worse with time. Some of the signs and symptoms are:

  • Stiffness: Stiffness in the joints can be experienced, especially after getting up from sleep
  • Pain: The affected joint of your body may hurt while or after using it
  • Loss of flexibility: You may lose* the flexibility of the affected joint
  • Tenderness: You may get a feeling of tenderness in your joints when you apply force to it
  • Bone spurs: You may feel lumps around the joint
  • Grating sensation: While using the joint you may experience a grating sensation

What are the Effects of Osteoarthritis?

People suffering from osteoarthritis experience pain in their joints along with stiffness. It does not affect everyone in the same way. Many people feel it developing over a significant period of time while some may find it progressing rapidly. Some people may find it mild while others may find it difficult to do even their daily tasks. Some joints that are commonly affected by this disease are:

  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Knees
  • Neck
  • Thumbs

How Osteoarthritis is Diagnosed?

The doctor is likely to examine the affected joint to look for stiffness, swelling, or tenderness. He may also ask you to get some tests done. The imaging tests include X-ray tests and magnetic resonance imaging. X-rays help in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis by showing the wearing out of the cartilage in the form of a narrow space between the bones. The magnetic resonance imaging test makes use of the radio waves and magnetic field to generate the images of the bone. This test is beneficial in analyzing the exact cause of pain.

Apart from these, lab tests like blood tests and joint fluid analysis also help in diagnosing osteoarthritis.

How to Manage and Treat* Osteoarthritis?

Apart from medications, therapies, and surgeries a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle is very important to manage and treat* the disease. This includes eating and sleeping well, following a regular exercise regime, and staying active. Most importantly, it is essential that a person suffering from osteoarthritis has a positive attitude. An optimistic outlook gives the ability to manage and handle the disease better*.

Alternative medicine that has proved beneficial for treating and managing osteoarthritis includes acupuncture, yoga, and tai chi.

Expert’s Opinion

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases conduct research to understand the disease and its related areas better*. The researchers of the institute are trying to develop a new method to monitor and detect the changes in the cartilage. This method will help the doctors to treat* the disease even before it is detected in the X-rays. Research is also being done to search for drugs that will help in preventing or slowing down the damage in the joint.