What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, or inflammation of a joint. It can be found in almost any joint of the body, but does commonly target the hips and knees. The inflammatory response and resultant symptoms from osteoarthritis occur due to wear and tear of the cartilage in the joint. The cartilage is a smooth, protective layer at the ends of the bones which allows them to glide freely and without significant friction during movement.
What can cause or increase risk for the development of osteoarthritis?
Age: As we get older, our risk for developing osteoarthritis increases
Sex: Women tend to be at a higher risk for the development of osteoarthritis
Weight: As BMI increases, the weight bearing joints (especially the hips and knees), see extra stress, which can increase risk for developing osteoarthritis. The presence of increased fat tissue throughout the body may also be linked to unhealthy joint environments.
Injury or repeated stress: If you have sustained an injury, or place excessive or repetitive stress on a joint, it may be more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Genetics: Osteoarthritis can run in families, and be passed down from generation to generation.
Malalignment or deformity: Some patients are born with, or develop, misaligned or deformed joints, which can predispose to the development of osteoarthritis.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness. These symptoms normally develop gradually and worsen over time. Joint swelling and tenderness, as well as loss of mobility and function can also occur.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made by obtaining an accurate and detailed patient history, a thorough physical examination, and appropriate imaging studies.
Radiographs are typically sufficient for confirming the diagnosis of osteoarthritis, especially once the disease has progressed. The traditional radiographic findings of osteoarthritis include joint space narrowing, increased density of bone around the joint, bone spurs, cyst formation, and joint subluxation.
What is the treatment of osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, medical treatments for osteoarthritis cannot reverse or prevent worsening of the degenerative changes that occur with the condition, however, they can help to alleviate symptoms.
Initial treatment typically consists of anti-inflammatory medications such as Iburpofen, Naproxen, Meloxicam, Diclofencac.
Along with NSAIDs, physical therapy and weight loss programs are often initiated.
The next step of treatment typically involves corticosteroid injection into the affected joints. There are other types of injections such as viscosupplementation or PRP injections, that may also be considered on a case by case basis.
Once the above treatments have been attempted, but have failed to alleviate symptoms, total joint replacement is typically discussed as a definitive treatment solution.
Fortunately, when joint replacement surgery is performed well and for the correct patient, spectacular results can be achieved which include permanent resolution of pain and significant improvement in function.