Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that is caused by a decrease in joint function. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs due to the thinning of the pads in the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. Osteoarthritis most often affects the joints in the hands, knees, hips and spine.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage which is a bearing at the end of the bone gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is soft and slippery tissue that softens joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the slippery surface of the cartilage becomes rough. Finally when the cartilage becomes rough and eroded, the bone with the next bone will rub against each other and cause pain.

The following are conditions that increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

  • Age. The risk of osteoarthritis increases with age.
  • Woman. A woman is more likely to have osteoarthritis, although the reason is unclear. But this is thought to be related to hormonal imbalances especially women who have experienced menopause.
  • Obesity. In people with obesity, joints will carry heavier weights, such as joints in the knee and pelvis. Fat tissue will also produce certain proteins that damage and make inflammation in the joint itself.
  • Joint injury. Joint trauma, such as an accident or sports injury, can also increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Family history. Osteoarthritis is a disease that can be inherited if one family member has the condition.
  • Bone deformity. Some people are born with joint or cartilage malformations, which increases the risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Other diseases. Having diabetes or rheumatism such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis generally develop slowly and get worse over time. The severity of symptoms and the location of the attack can vary from patient to patient. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  • The joint feels painful when moved.
  • The joint feels swollen and warm when you try to press it.
  • There is joint stiffness when waking up in the morning or after the joint has not been moved for some time.
  • Feel broken or not flexible when using joints.
  • There are bone spurs. As an additional bone growth at the ends of the joints, these bone spurs can feel hard when pressed, and can limit the movement of the affected joint.

When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?

Consult a doctor immediately if you have joint pain or stiffness that does not go away.

Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis

During a physical examination, the doctor will examine the affected joint, checking for swelling, redness, pain, and range of motion of the joint. The doctor will also recommend an X-ray and MRI examination.

  • On an x-ray examination, thin cartilage will usually be seen/cannot be seen. X-rays will also show if there is additional growth of hard bones such as spurs around the joint.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an examination that uses radio waves and magnetic waves to produce detailed images of bones and soft tissue, including cartilage. MRI is not a Gold Standard examination for osteoarthritis but can help provide more complete information for complex or difficult cases.

Laboratory examination

  • Blood test. Blood tests can help look for other causes of joint pain, such as joint pain due to rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Joint fluid analysis. The doctor can do this by using a needle to draw joint fluid from the affected joint. Joint fluid examination can determine whether there is inflammation and whether joint pain is due to gout or infection.

Complications of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that worsens over time. Joint pain and stiffness will worsen and will be increasingly difficult to carry out daily activities. Some people are unable to work for too long. When joint pain is too severe and is unable to perform daily activities, your doctor may recommend joint replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis treatment

Until now, there has been no effective drug to deal with osteoarthritis, but the right lifestyle can help reduce pain and maintain joint motion. The type of treatment is determined by the severity of the symptoms and their location.

Oftentimes, lifestyle changes, consumption of non-prescription drugs, and home remedies will reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling. Here are some ways you can do to treat osteoarthritis:

1. Natural

  • Sports

Physical activity strengthens the muscles around the joints and can help relieve the stiffness caused by osteoarthritis. Try to do physical movements for at least 20 to 30 minutes every day. Tai chi and yoga can also increase joint flexibility and help in pain management.

  • Lose weight

Being overweight can strain your joints and cause pain. Losing excess weight helps relieve pressure and reduce pain. A healthy weight can also reduce the risk of other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

  • Enough sleep

Resting muscles can reduce swelling and inflammation. Getting enough sleep at night can also help you deal with pain more effectively.

2. Medical

In addition to home care, osteoarthritis can also be reduced with the help of medication, including:

  • Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen has been proven to help some people with osteoarthritis who have mild to moderate pain. Please note, consuming more than the recommended dose can cause liver damage.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can relieve osteoarthritis pain. Even so, NSAIDs can cause stomach disorders, cardiovascular problems, bleeding problems, and liver and kidney damage. However, NSAID gel has fewer side effects and can relieve pain.

  • Cortisone injection

Corticosteroid drug injections can relieve pain in your joints. During this procedure, the doctor will numb the area around the joint, then place the needle into the space inside the joint and inject the medicine.

The number of cortisone injections that can be received each year is generally limited to three or four injections, because these drugs can worsen joint damage over time.

  • Lubricant injections

Hyaluronic acid injections can reduce pain by cushioning the knee, although several studies have shown this injection to be no more easing than placebo. Hyaluronic acid is similar to components that are usually found in joint fluid.

  • Arranging bones

Osteoarthritis is a condition that can damage one side of the knee more than the other. If this happens, osteotomy might help. In performing knee osteotomy, a surgeon will cut the bone – either above or below the knee, and then lift or add bone slices. This method shifts the pressure on the worn knee

  • Joint replacement

In joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty), the surgeon will remove the damaged joint surface and replace it with plastic and metal. Artificial joints can be worn or removed and may need to be replaced. Surgical risks include infection and blood clots.

Prevention of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a disease that cannot be prevented. However, you can minimize the risk of this condition by:

  • Light exercise

Avoid sports that make your joints tense and force them to bear excessive loads, such as running and weight training. Instead, try exercises like swimming and cycling, where the tension in the joints is more controlled.

  • Maintaining Body Posture

Avoid being in the same position for too long. This is done to maintain good posture. If you work at a desk all day, make sure the chair is at the right height and rest regularly to move.

  • Maintain Weight

Being overweight increases tension in the joints and the risk of osteoarthritis. If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce your chances of developing the condition.

  • Control Blood Sugar

Diabetes can be a significant risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. High glucose levels can accelerate the formation of molecules that make cartilage stiff.

In addition, diabetes can also trigger inflammation which can accelerate the loss of cartilage. Keeping diabetes under control and regulating glucose levels can help prevent osteoarthritis.


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