What is Osteoarthritis ?

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, occurs when a joint wears out. It is the type of arthritis most common in the elderly. The connecting surfaces of a joint become rougher as the cartilage lining the joint deteriorates.

Osteoarthritis most commonly affects those joints that support weight, for example, the knees, the hips and the spine. For this reason, the condition can be worse for overweight people. The effects of the aging process can be hastened if joints have been damaged earlier in life by an accident or by injury. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured.

Clinical Features of Osteoarthritis

  • Deep aching pain in the joints which is worse during day time and gets aggravated by exercise.
  • Tenderness, crepitus (crackling noise on movement) and reduced joint movement.
  • Swelling of joints.
  • Pain in joints with least movement.
  • Stiffness of joints which results in inactivity.
  • Deformities of joints and subluxation (partial dislocation of the joint).

Treatment of Osteoarthritis Treatment for osteoarthritis is constantly improving due to new, highly effective, pain reducing and anti–inflammatory drugs. Naproxen, sulindac, ibuprofen, piroxicam, and indomethacin have emerged as useful aspirin substitutes, although aspirin is still very effective. The major advantage of these aspirin substitutes is that they do not need to be taken as frequently as aspirin.

Care should be taken when walking or with other movements. A cane, a walker, or rubber heeled shoes may help alleviate some joint distress. If necessary, a person should lose weight. A living area can be modified to assist an arthritic person: handles near showers, toilets and beds are useful aids. A straight–backed chair is easiest to use. In severe cases of osteoarthritis, joint replacement via surgery may be effective.

Effects of Osteoarthritis Patients with osteoarthritis rarely become bedridden or crippled. The bulbous knobs that may develop on the fingers or toes can be painful and stiff, but serious crippling does not result. Pain flares up with sudden activity after rest, and a bad attack may last for several days. Osteoarthritis of a hip or knee may prevent a patient from walking normally. If the joints in both legs are affected, the patient may become chair bound.