What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that results from simple wear and tear of the bones and joints as the age advances. The direct cause of the disease is not known and various factors seem to be contributory.

Osteoarthritis can be of two types:

  1. Primary osteoarthritis: This is a disease of old age and affects the weight-bearing joints of the body like the knee and the hip joints. This is more common than secondary osteoarthritis.
  2. Secondary osteoarthritis: In this type, the degeneration of joint occurs due to an underlying condition like fractures.

Understanding Osteoarthritis

A simple joint consisting of two bones has an articular cartilage present between the bones. Articular cartilage is a type of connective tissue which prevents rubbing of two bony surfaces against each other and provides smooth movement.  In osteoarthritis, there is a progressive loss of this cartilage, which creates significant friction between the bones and causes pain and inflammation (swelling and redness).

What are the symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

  • Pain: It is the earliest symptom. It starts as a dull pain but then becomes worse and cramp like after physical activity.
  • Stiffness: Patient may experience some stiffness before the start of an activity or while trying to achieve full range of movement at a joint.
  • Swelling: This might be a late presentation and occurs when the joint area is inflamed.
  • Crepitus: Crackling sounds may be heard on joint movement.
  • Inflexibility: Instability of the joint and loss of flexibility

What are the risk factors of Osteoarthritis?

  • Old age: Cartilage wears off with age
  • Gender: Females are more susceptible
  • Obesity
  • Previous joint injuries
  • Bone deformities like bow legs or knock knees
  • Mechanical stress to joints
  • Genetics

What are the complications with Osteoarthritis?

  • Chronic pain can decrease the quality of life by causing sleep disruption and limitation of movement.
  • Decreased activity due to pain can lead to weight gain and obesity which can further worsen the condition and increase the risk of other diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
  • Other bone-related conditions like gout may occur.

How is Osteoarthritis diagnosed?

  1. Radiological examination: This is the most important and definitive investigation for diagnosing osteoarthritis.
  2. Serology and ESR: To rule out another form of arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis.
  3. Serum uric acid: To rule out gout.

How is Osteoarthritis treated?

1. Supportive therapy: Weight reduction is encouraged in obese patients.

  • Local stress to joint should be avoided.
  • Exercise can strengthen the muscles around the joint and provide more stability.
  • Local application of heat can provide relief of pain and stiffness.

2. Chemotherapy: Analgesics to relieve pain along with certain drugs known to prevent cartilage damage.

3. Surgical treatment: In certain cases like joints with deformities or joints with advanced damage, surgeries like osteotomy and joint replacement surgeries are the treatment of choice.

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