The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis is primarily a degenerative disease affecting the cartilage present in bone joints. Osteoarthritis is mostly found affecting aged people. Though there is no complete cure for this ailment, management of the symptoms can be done with know-how about the disease, its causes and symptoms.
Nature of the Disease
Osteoarthritis is a progressive degeneration of the cartilage tissue, which worsens with time. The disease mostly affects the weight bearing joints and it is most felt on the hip, knee, lower back, neck and hands. It is not true that osteoarthritis is an inevitable feature of aging. However, the symptoms set in on crossing 40 years of age. Studies done in US and UK reveal that women are more prone to the disease than men.
Sometimes young people also are afflicted with osteoarthritis, subsequent to a joint injury, due to posture problems or some congenital bone abnormalities. Osteoarthritis is characterized by stiffness at joints coupled with pain and difficulty in moving those joints. If left uncared, the condition will worsen resulting in disability due to immobile joints.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
The root cause of osteoarthritis is the wear and tear of cartilage tissue lining the bones in joints. Cartilage is a soft tissue that provides a cushioning effect between two bones in a joint, which acts as a shock absorber during motion.
Due to erosion of cartilage, there are chances that the bones will rub with each other causing pain. The cartilage will lose its elasticity, becomes stiff and this affects mobility of the joints. Eventually the joint loses its shape and sometimes bone spurs are seen growing on the edges of the bones.
General causes for cartilage damage are: wear and tear due to aging, obesity, injury to joints, misaligned joints, genetic defect, stress on the joints due to certain sports / job.
Due to inflammation of the joints, there will be swelling, stiffness and pain. The movement of the affected joint will be restricted and sometimes the patient can feel a cracking sound in the joints.
Most Commonly Affected Areas of the Body
Osteoarthritis Affecting the Hip Joint
People who are overweight tend to get this type of osteoarthritis. Any movement necessitating the movement of hip joint is affected.
The patient experiences pain while moving and for some, due to stiffness, there is difficulty in walking after a while of rest. In some cases the pain may spread to the thighs, buttocks and even up to the legs.
Osteoarthritis Affecting the Knee
This joint is the most affected as this supports the entire weight of the body. Usually both the knee joints are affected, unless the arthritis is caused due to some form of trauma or genetic defects. The patient finds walking difficult and painful especially when going up a slope or steps.
Osteoarthritis Affecting the Hands
Here the patient will feel pain and swelling in fingers. Fingers will be stiff and sometimes fluid-filled cysts are found on the back of the fingers. The movement of the hand itself will be restricted due to pain and stiffness.