Osteoarthritis (OA) is a slow-progressing degenerative joint disease that commonly affects middle-age to elderly people. OA is the most common form of arthritis. OA occurs when the cartilage breaks down, often because of mechanical stress or biochemical alterations, causing the bone underneath to fail. OA eventually leads to the loss of the cartilage in one or more joints. OA commonly affects joints in the hands, spine, and weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees.
There are several risk factors and causes associated with osteoarthritis include:
Age. The incidences of OA occurs as you age. OA is “wear and tear” of the joints, so the older you become the more you have used your joints. As you age, the water content of the cartilage increases and the protein makeup of the cartilage degenerates.
Obesity. Obesity plays a large part in the development of OA, particularly OA of the knees, which carry the majority of your weight. For every pound you gain, you add four pounds of pressure on your knees and six times the pressure on your hips.
Injury or Overuse of Joint. Whether you’re an athlete or your job requires frequent repetitive motion, such as construction, have a higher risk of developing OA. OA also can occur in joints where bones have previously been fractured or surgery has occurred.
Genetics or Heredity. Inherited abnormalities of the bones that affect your shape or stability of the joints can lead to the development of OA. Although it is a risk factor, this does not necessarily mean you are going to develop OA.
Muscle Weakness. Weakness in the knee muscle surrounding the joint can lead to OA.
Signs and symptoms of OA may include the following:
- Joint soreness
- Stiffness after periods of rest that goes away when activity resumes
- Morning stiffness, usually lasting no longer than 30 minutes
- Pain caused by the weakening of muscles surrounding the joint due to inactivity
- Joint pain, usually worse in the evening after a day’s activity
- Poor coordination, posture and walking due to pain and stiffness
The severity and occurrence of signs and symptoms vary from person to person. Some people with OA may stay in the early stage of moderate, intermittent pain that does not interfere with their daily activities. Others, however, may have OA that progresses to a point where it interferes with their daily activities due to the severity of the pain and stiffness making it difficult to walk, climb stairs or even sleep.
Unfortunately, Osteoarthritis cannot be cured and will likely get worse over time. However, there are a treatments that can help control the symptoms such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).