Osteoarthritis: What It Is and Its Symptoms

Posted on 27. Oct, 2012 by in Osteoporosis

Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis wherein bone cartilage breaks down, and is eventually lost in one or more joints. Cartilage is an integral part of the body’s bone structure, with it serving as a “cushion” between joints. With over 100 types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common. Males around the age of 45 and women around the age of 55 are those who usually experience this disease.

Body parts commonly affected by osteoarthritis are the hands, knees, feet, spine, and hips. When the cause of the disease is not known, it is called primary osteoarthritis. If the cause can be determined, it is called secondary osteoarthritis.

Primary osteoarthritis is mainly due to the body’s natural aging process. As the body ages, water content in the cartilage increases and protein in the cartilage degenerates. This results in the breakdown of the cartilage, thereby flaking or creating tiny crevices. In advanced osteoarthritis, there is total loss of the cartilage between bones and joints. Repetitive use of the affected joints may result in the bones rubbing together, causing inflammation, pain, and limitation in joint mobility. This may also result in the outgrowth of new bones, called spurs.

Secondary osteoarthritis is caused by injury or disease. Some of these conditions that can lead to secondary osteoarthritis include obesity, gout, diabetes, repetitive trauma to affected joints, hormone disorders, or congenital abnormalities.

Unlike other forms of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, osteoarthritis does not affect other body organs. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain in the affected joints after repetitive use. There may also be warmth, swelling, and creaking in the affected joints. In severe cases of osteoarthritis, bones tend to rub against each other thus causing more pain for the patient.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis may vary from patient to patient. Some patients may complain about excessive joint pains, while other patients who show advanced degeneration of cartilage in X-rays may have little complaints about pain. Patients who also experience osteoarthritis in the fingers may report of an interval of pain-free years between symptoms.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis may also vary on the type and degree of osteoarthritis being experienced by the patient.

Obesity can be attributed to osteoarthritis in the knees due to excess upper body weight. This may also be caused by injury or repeated trauma to the affected joint. Advanced cartilage degeneration in the knees may cause deformity and an outward curvature of the knees, sometimes called being bowlegged. People who suffer from osteoarthritis in the weight-bearing joints such as the knees may develop a limp. In some cases, the limping and joint dysfunction might not respond to medication and other conservative measures. This makes severe osteoarthritis in the knee one of the main reasons people undergoes knee replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis in the cervical or lumbar spine may result in bone outgrowths called osteophytes. These bony spurs may irritate spinal nerves, thus causing severe pain from the spine, as well as tingling or numbing sensations in the affected parts of the body.

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