is a degenerative disorder of the joints and surrounding bone that
produces pain and stiffness. It is common in seniors, but can
occur much earlier. It affects men and women equally often,
although men tend to have symptoms at an earlier age than do
to popular belief, osteoarthritis is not an inevitable result of
aging and years of wear and tear on the joints. It appears to be
caused by problems with the body systems responsible for the
development of cartilage and bone. These problems lead to thin and
pitted cartilage and overgrown but weak bone, both of which
contribute to reduced function and pain in the joint.
sites most often affected by osteoarthritis are
- joints of the
fingers and toes
- hip, knee, or
first symptoms include pain with exercise and stiffness upon
rising in the morning or after a period of inactivity (such as
sitting in a car or airplane). As the condition worsens, the
person may feel increased pain and instability in the joint and/or
a scraping or grating sensation with movement. Eventually, the
joint may become enlarged or “frozen”.
are two aims in the treatment of osteoarthritis:
involves reducing the burden on the arthritic joint and
maintaining its mobility and strength. For example, if you have
arthritis in a knee (a weight-bearing joint) losing a few pounds
often helps to reduce pain. Special stretches and exercises can
help increase the range of motion in the joint and strengthen the
muscles that surround it.
It is usually a good idea to have a
program designed for you by a physiotherapist. Sometimes a doctor
or physiotherapist will suggest you use special equipment, such as
a knee brace or orthopedic mattress. A person with arthritis
should try to maintain a healthy level of activity because being
sedentary can worsen the condition.
manage pain caused by minor osteoarthritis, your doctor may
suggest you take acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drug (NSAID) such as aspirin or ibuprofen. If these do not work,
you may be given a prescription for a stronger NSAID or for a new
type of anti-arthritis drug called a COX-2 inhibitor.
a physician will inject an osteoarthritic joint with a
hydrocortisone preparation or a liquid that replaces the
lubricating fluid in the joint. These measures provide relief for
a few months, but are not possible for all joints nor in all cases
replacement of arthritic joints is an option your physician may
suggest if other treatments do not alleviate symptoms of
osteoarthritis. Hip replacement and knee replacement are very
common and effective procedures. Surgery to replace other joints
is also possible.