Osteoarthritis is a disease of joints affecting the cartilage, which is a slippery tissue covering bone ends in joints. Healthy cartilage facilitates gliding of bones and also helps in absorbing movement shock.
When a person suffers from osteoarthritis, the top cartilage layer breaks and wears out. This leads to bones below cartilage to rub against each other and cause swelling, pain and motion loss of the concerned joint.
What the most common types of Osteoarthritis?
Though osteoarthritis can affect joints of any body part, the most commonly known types are:
Knee osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis affects both the knees with time, once it has affected any one of the knees. The exception to this is occurrence of this ailment due to injury or some other condition that affects just one knee.
Affected knees will experience pain while walking; especially when climbing stairs or ascending and descending hills. Straightening of legs becomes difficult and a grating sound can be heard while moving affected joint.
Hip osteoarthritis: Difficulty in moving hip joints is the primary sign of hip osteoarthritis. Usually groin pain is experienced by affected individuals. This pain will be worse while moving hip joints. For example, difficulty while wearing socks or putting on shoes are signs of this ailment.
Hand osteoarthritis: Base of thumb, closest joints to fingertips and finger's middle joints are affected by this osteoarthritis type. Fingers may get swollen, painful and stiff and finger joints may witness development of bumps on them. Though pain decreases and disappears eventually, swelling and bumps might remain.
Finger might slightly bend at sides at affected joints and painful cysts may develop at back side of fingers. For some patients, bumps may develop at base of thumb; right at the spot where it connects with the wrist. Even manual tasks such as opening jars and writing can get difficult due to hand osteoarthritis.
What are the signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
The common signs and symptoms for osteoarthritis are:
Tenderness in joints
Increased stiffness and pain if joints are not moved for some time
Slightly large appearance of joints than usual
Crackling or grating sound in joints
Limited movement of joints
Bulk muscle loss (muscle wasting) and weakness
What are the different tests suggested to diagnose osteoarthritis?
Tests for diagnosing osteoarthritis are not definitive. Doctors examine joints and symptoms before coming to a final conclusion. Some tests that may be suggested include:
What are the costs of tests for osteoarthritis in India?
Costs of tests for osteoarthritis in India will depend on various factors such as your city of residence, type of hospital/diagnostic center you visit and facilities you avail of.
What are the causes/risk factors that lead to osteoarthritis?
Various factors that contribute towards increasing risk for developing osteoarthritis include:
Joint injury: If your joint is damaged during operation or injury, osteoarthritis can develop in it. It is recommended that overuse of joint before giving it ample time to heal post operation or injury needs to be avoided to keep osteoarthritis at bay.
Secondary arthritis: Previously existing condition of the joint such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis can lead to development of osteoarthritis. Post initial damage done to joints, osteoarthritis may occur many years later.
Ageing: With increasing age, the risk of osteoarthritis rises too. Adults crossing the age of 45 years are at higher risk.
Inheritance: Family history of osteoarthritis may also be a cause of this disease in some cases. As studies in genetics have not found a specific responsible gene, many genes together contribute in small proportions towards developing osteoarthritis via inheritance.
Obesity: Obesity leads to putting additional strain on joints; especially joints of hips and knees that bear weight most of the time.
Vitamin D deficiency: Deficiency of Vitamin D can aggravate existing osteoarthritis.
What can you do for prevention of osteoarthritis?
Though completely eliminating the possibility of developing osteoarthritis cannot be achieved, decreasing risk can be done by following the below mentioned aspects.
Care for your joints:
Exercise regularly: Though regular exercise leads to healthy joints, straining joints; especially those at knees, hands and hips, needs to be avoided. So instead of weight training and running, you can opt for cycling and swimming that are considered better options when it comes to prevention of damage to joints.
Good posture: Maintaining this is extremely important. Do not stay is one position for long duration. If at work desks, ensure that the chair you sit on is at right height. Regular breaks are necessary to easy your muscles are are highly recommended.
Ensure muscles are kept strong:
Engaging in aerobic activities such as brisk walking and cycling for strengthening muscles is recommended. Again, remember to avoid straining joints while you enjoy these activities.
Talk to your doctor or a professional dietitian for weight loss. Obesity is bad and can definitely lead to developing osteoarthritis. Moreover, being obese can lead to other medical ailments as well. So maintaining correct weight is crucial for your health.
What are the various treatment methods adopted for osteoarthritis?
Along with the various lifestyle changes and exercise regimes as mentioned in the answer to question number 5 above, other treatment options suggested for osteoarthritis include:
Pain killers depending on severity of pain
Pain killers for reducing inflammation
Use of devices to enhance mobility and movement
Manual therapy provided by trained physiotherapists