Osteoarthritis also known as degenerative arthritis is a joint disorder which affects almost 27 million people in the United States alone. Osteoarthritis is a gradually progressing disease which normally afflicts individuals who are older than forty five years of age. This extremely common form of arthritis is brought about by the loss of cartilages which surround one or more joints of the body.
Articular cartilages are smooth, white tissues which are commonly found at the end of bones that come together to form a joint. These smooth, white tissues prevent the bones from rubbing against each other. However, as a person grows older the protective cartilages tend to erode. Excessive wear and tear on a joint is another factor which can hasten the erosion of articular cartilages. Partial or complete erosion of articular cartilages can trigger inflammation, pain and swelling in the afflicted joint.
People with degenerative arthritis will typically complain of pain in their hands, feet, fingers, hips, knees and the spine. Some of the common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis have been probed in this article.
Signs & Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
One of the first signs or symptoms of osteoarthritis is pain. People with osteoarthritis may experience a sharp, burning pain around their joints. Osteoarthritis pain will be of an intermittent nature, they come and go spasmodically. Generally osteoarthritis pain is aggravated after periods of rest. In fact, experiencing pain in one or more joints directly after taking some rest is one of the characteristic symptoms of this condition.
However, as the disease advances the pain becomes more constant. People with advanced osteoarthritis will complain of sharp, shooting pain in their joints even when they are resting. In the later stages of this condition the degree of pain becomes so high that it can cause partial or total loss of mobility.
Humid weather conditions are also known to worsen osteoarthritis pain. This is the main reason why people with degenerative arthritis commonly complain of excruciating pain in their joints when the weather turns muggy.
Another typical symptom of osteoarthritis is stiffness in the joints. The maximum amount of stiffness and discomfort is experienced in the mornings. The stiffness and pain may last for almost half an hour. In fact, the joints become so stiff after periods of long rest that a creaky sound may emanate from them.
Sometimes sitting in one position for long periods of time can also cause stiffness and discomfort in the joint. Stiffness in the joints can hamper a person’s normal movements. Normal every day activities like climbing a flight of stairs becomes a cumbersome task because of joint stiffness. People with osteoarthritis are advised not exercise excessively as this too can trigger stiffness and pain in their joints.
Another symptom of osteoarthritis is muscle weakness. People with osteoarthritis may experience excruciating pain when they try to move the affected joint. To avoid the suffocating pain, people with this condition try their level best not to use the particular joint.
When joints are left unused it can lead to muscle weakness. Muscle weakness can lead to excessive amounts pressure being put on the joint. This in turn can trigger extreme pain in the joints. In short, people with osteoarthritis become trapped in the vicious cycle of muscle weakness and joint pain.
People with osteoarthritis may notice one or more joints appearing swollen or enlarged. Swelling is caused by the excess production of synovial fluid.
Synovium is the thin membrane which lies inside the ‘capsule’ that surrounds the joints. Progressive degeneration of the cartilage can cause the synovium to produce excess amounts of synovial fluid. When extra fluid is produced it can lead to pain inside the joint. The joint may also appear highly inflamed.
As degenerative arthritis progresses, it can lead to joint deformity. Joint deformity is brought about by the gradual erosion of the bones. As the bones erode it can lead to a realignment of the joint and change in the distribution of stress on that particular joint. This can lead to joints appearing knobby and deformed. Finger and knee joints are the most common areas where joint deformity can be observed.
Reduced Range of Motion
It is extremely important to treat osteoarthritis in the initial stages. If this condition is left untreated and it is allowed to progress unchecked it can ultimately affect an individual’s complete range of motions. Initially a person may witness difficulty in performing a couple of tasks. However, as the disease progresses it can cause total loss of movement.
A creaking, clicking or cracking sound may emanate from the joints which are affected by this condition. The creaking sound which emanates from the joint is called crepitations. The creaking sound is caused by the loss of cartilage surrounding the bones.