Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis in which the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones that connect at the joint wears away, exposing the bone and causing pain. This condition may also involve a decrease in the amount of joint fluid, called synovial fluid, that cushions the joint, as well as changes in the ligaments and muscles that stabilize the joint. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects hip, knee or the spine. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects middle-aged and older people.

Alternative Names of Osteoarthritis are
: Degenerative joint disease, wear-and-tear arthritis, old person's arthritis.

Complications of Osteoarthritis

  • Fever, redness, or joint swelling is a serious problem which may indicate a joint infection.
  • Gout can also have similar symptoms.
  • Sudden inability to walk, bear weight, or a significant change in function.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

  • Obesity : Excess weight puts extra strain on the joints, particularly the large weight-bearing joints, such as the knees, hips, and balls of the feet.
  • Injuries : Work related injuries and injuries due to sports are also part of the causes of Osteoarthritis.
  • Associated diseases : The presence of other associated diseases, infections, diabetes, and various other forms of circulating arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
  • Genetics : Having a family history of osteoarthritis or congenital defects of joints, spine, or leg abnormalities.

Signs & Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
The symptoms develop gradually and may not appear all at once.

  • Deep aching joint pain that gets worse after exercise or putting weight on it and is relieved by rest.
  • Crepitus (crackling, grinding noise with movement).
  • Joint pain in rainy weather.
  • Swelling in joints.
  • Bony enlargements and osteophyte formation.

Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis

  • Osteoarthritis is often diagnosed by its characteristic symptoms of pain, decreased movement and or deformity.
  • Osteoarthritis can be confirmed with an x-ray. Common x-ray findings include narrowing of the joint space between bones, a loss of cartilage and bone spurs or bone growths.
  • MRI scan maybe performed according to need.
  • Blood tests may be used to exclude other possible conditions but they cannot diagnose osteoarthritis.

Treatments of Osteoarthritis

  • Medication : Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been shown to be as effective as nonsteroidal medication in treating the pain of knee osteoarthritis. Individuals should keep their dose of acetaminophen to under 2000 mg a day as higher doses could cause kidney disease.
  • Weight loss : It is a a basic requirement to reduce excess weight.
  • Exercise : It is also helpful in treating the condition.
  • Heat and cold therapy : Helps in reliving pain.
  • Surgery : Depending upon severity of symptoms it may be required.
  • Altrenative therapies : Some people find acupuncture or reflexology helpful in relieving pain especially if you have severe side-effects as a result of medication. Although there is little evidence for the effectiveness of these therapies in treating osteoarthritis, a substantial number of people with all forms of arthritis have used or are using one type or another.

Prevention of Osteoarthritis
There is no absolute way to prevent osteoarthritis is. But lifestyle changes like playing some sports, timely routine, execrcise may reduce or limit symptoms.
When to seek Medical Advice

  • When common pain relievers are unable to remove or reduce pain
  • Confusion regarding the diagnosis (Osteoarthritis can be confused with rheumatoid arthritis.)
  • Disability or loss of mobility, especially if sudden.