Wear and tear of joints due to excessive usage and weight may lead to degeneration of the cartilage covering of the bone ends within joints. This disorder is known as osteoarthritis. This disorder is rare under the age of 45 and increasingly common over the age of 60, especially in females.
The protective cartilage at the ends of bones is worn out, due to which the affected joint thickens resulting into bony growths known as osteophytes. If you are suffering from osteoarthritis, you may experience severe inflammation as the fluid accumulates within the joint. These changes cause pain, swelling and stiffness of the joint, restricting their mobility. This disorder is most common in weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees. But, it may also affect hands, feet, shoulder and neck.
Although there is no specific cause for osteoarthritis, there are few factors that considered to be increasing the risk of this disorder:
- Wear and tear of the joints due to rigorous activities or by repeated minor injuries.
- Continuous and strenuous weight or force on the joints.
- Damage to a joint early in life can cause osteoarthritis later on.
- Damage to cartilages caused by another joint disorder.
- It may be hereditary
The symptoms of osteoarthritis are mild in the beginning. However, if not treated on time, it may get worse. The severity can be limited to just two bones, or can be widespread. The various symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Pain and tenderness that get worse by activities and can be relieved by rest
- Swelling around the joints and affected area
- Restricted movement of the affected joints
- Stiffness of the joints
- Distorted and enlarged finger joints if the hands are affected.
- Crackled noise on moving the affected joint
The joint pain may get so severe with time that the affected person may be confined to the home with restricted movements. This lack of mobility may lead to weakness and wasting of muscles and sometimes to weight gain.
Diagnosis & treatment
Your symptoms, history of joint pain and physical examination can help to distinctly diagnose osteoarthritis. There is no permanent cure for this disorder, but its treatment can definitely give you relief from the pain. Commonly, your doctor may prescribe pain-killers and anti-inflammatory drugs like paracetamol to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. If this does not work and if you keep on experiencing flare-up of pain and inflammation in a single joint, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid drug directly into the affected joint in order to reduce swelling and relieve pain. To improve the function of muscles around the joint, doctor may suggest physiotherapy. In case of severe osteoarthritis, joint replacement would be advisable for the repair or replacement of the affected joint.
If you suffer from mild osteoarthritis, try to find out the reason. If you are overweight, watch your dietary habits and reduce your weight. Mild exercise can help you to tone your muscles and strengthen the joints. Wear shoes that give support to your feet. So try footwear with rubber soles that will absorb the shock and reduce further damage. For a painful hip or knee, use of a walking stick will make your walking easy, as you may put half of your body weight on the stick. Increase your mobility and relieve your joint pain by massaging the affected area by taking warm baths and using heat pads.