The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). The three main causes are aging of the joints, obesity, and injury.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient, and can be intermittent with long pain-free periods of affected knees and hands. The most common symptoms are joint pain, especially with repetitive use of the joint, and it usually gets worse as the day wears on.
Swelling and creaking or grating of the joint may be common, and the joint can be warm to the touch. There may be tenderness to the joint when light pressure is applied. Stiffness of the joint is another symptom, which can occur after a period of inactivity or when first waking in the morning.
Cartilage is a firm tissue that is found normally on the ends of bones to cushion joint movement. As the cartilage deteriorates, the slick surface becomes rough, or completely wears away. When OA becomes severe, total destruction of the cartilage on the ends of the bones creates friction as bone rubs against bone. This can cause limited range of motion of the joint, and pain.
Extra fragments of bone, called bone spurs, may develop around the affected joint and feel like hard lumps under the skin. Other organs are not affected by osteoarthritis, unlike rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, or other types of arthritis.
What are the risk factors?
There are certain factors that put you at increased risk of developing osteoarthritis. Aging, obesity, and joint injuries, like from an accident or from playing sports, are a few of the risk factors. The extra weight you may be carrying if you are overweight stresses the weight-bearing joints of hips and knees. Adipose or fat tissue produces certain proteins that can cause joints to become inflamed.
Being female is another risk factor; it is not known why but women tend to be more susceptible to developing OA. Also, if you have a job that requires repetitive stress on a particular joint, that joint may likely be prone to developing osteoarthritis. Genetics can play a part also; a tendency for developing osteoarthritis can be inherited. And the risk of developing OA is greater in those born with deformed joints or that have a cartilage defect.
Other rheumatic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, or even diabetes, can put you at increased risk of developing OA. Daily tasks can be difficult to carry out if pain and stiffness of the joints becomes severe.
Any joint can be affected, but the joints most commonly hit are knees, hands, hip and spine. Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease that worsens over time, with no cure. However, an active lifestyle and healthy weight maintenance, along with other treatments, can retard the progression of the disease and minimize pain while providing much improvement to joint function.
We’re Here for You!
Yes, there’s a lot to learn about living with arthritis. Getting in control might take some time. It’s going to mean making some changes in your life, but you can start with small changes, and you don’t have to make them all at once. Try to stay positive and work with your doctor to find the right combination of treatments. And you don’t have to do it alone.
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