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What is Arthritis? - Read About Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs as the cartilage in your joints wears down over time. Any joint can be susceptible to osteoarthirits, but most commonly affected by it are the joints in hands, hips, knees and spines. Customarily, osteoarthritis affects only one joint, but exceptionally in finger arthritis for it is likely to affect multiple joints.



Osteoarthritis results from the gradual deterioration of the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in joints. The smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough and thereby causing irritation. When the cartilage becomes so thin from wearing out, the bones of the joint will rub with one another. The bones will become damaged and painful.


It's incoherent what causes osteoarthritis but researchers suspect that it's a combination of factors like being overweight, aging process, joint injury or stress, heredity and muscle weakness.


Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of osteoarthritis develop slowly and worsen over time. Its manifestations are:

  • Pain in a joint during or after use, or after a period of inactivity
  • Tenderness in the joint when you apply light pressure
  • Morning stiffness or after a long period of inactivity
  • Difficulty using joint due to loss of flexibility
  • Grating sensation when using joint
  • Bone spurs or hard lumps formed around the affected joint
  • Swelling


These osteoarthritis symptoms frequently affect hands, hips, knees and spine.



Osteoarthritis has no known cure but treatments can help reduce pain and maintain joint movements to be as functional as possible. Usually, doctors will recommend first series of options before considering medications and joint replacement surgery. Medications and surgery may be given as needed.


Initial treatment options for mild osteoarthritis

For mild osteoarthritis that is bothersome but do not affect much your daily living, your physician may recommend you the following:

-Rest. Resting for 12 to 24 hours will help you alleviate pain and inflammation. Do activities that do not stress your joints much and at least have a 10-minute break every hour.

-Exercise. You may have to ask for your doctor's approval if you wish to exercise, but only gentle exercises are recommended, such as walking, biking or swimming. Exercise may help you improve your endurance and strengthen muscles around your joint, making joints more stable. Avoid exercising tender, injured or swollen joints. Stop your activity when you feel a new joint pain. Pain that lasts more than two hours usually signifies overuse.

-Lose weight. This factor may increase stress on your weight-bearing joints such as your knees and hips. A small amount of weight loss can already be beneficial in reducing the pressure you put on your jonts. Aim at most to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Consult your doctor regarding some healthy ways to lose weight. Most people use a combination of diet modification and increased exercise.

-Use heat and cold to relieve pain. Heat may also relieve pain and cold can relieve muscle spasms. To soothe your painful joint, use a heating pad, how water bottle or warm bath with average warmth. Apply heat for 20 minutes several times a day. Cold treatments like ice packs are good option for adressing pain by cooling your joints. However, don't use cold treatments if you have poor circulation or numbness.

-Work with a physical therapist. Ask your octor for a referral. The physical therapist can prescribe you an individualized exercise plan that can strengthen the muscles on your joint, increase your range of motion and decrease.

-Avoid stressing your joints. Lessen the possibility of stressing your joints. An occupation therapist can coordinate with you in finding ways how you can work without giving extra stresses on your joints. For example, a toothbrush with a large grip could make brushing your teeth easier if you have finger osteoarthritis. A special seat in your shower could help ease the pain of standing if you have knee osteoarthritis.


Treatment options for moderate osteoarthritis

If osteoarthritis still persists with initial treatments, medications will then be granted. Medications will get you better if they are accompanied with adequate

exercise and rest. If you're overweight, continue working to lose weight.


Some beneficial medications for moderate arthritis are Acetaminophen, NSAIDs, etc.


Treatment options for severe osteoarthritis

If you've had a series of combined treatments but still experience pain and disability, you may be required the following:

-Stronger painkillers

-Cortisone shots. Cortocosteroid injections may eliminate pain in your joints. To execute this, your doctor mubs the are around your joint and inserts a needle into the space within your joint and then injects medication. It is still unclear how corticosteroids work in osteoarthritis, but your doctor may limit your injections per year since too many corticosteroid injections may cause joint damage.

-Visco-supplementation. Injections of Hyalgan and Synvisc, hyaluronic acid derivatives can give comfort by providing cushioning in your knee. They are made of rooster combs are similar to components found in your joint fluid. Visco-supplementation is only approved for knee osteoarthritis, though a study is now being conducted with its use to other joints. Injections are normally given weekly over several weeks with a pain relief that may last for a few months. Some risks may include infection, swelling, and joint pain. People who are sensitive to birds, feathers or eggs shouldn't undergo visco-supplementation treatments.


Surgery for osteoarthritis

Surgery will only be conducted for severe osteoarthritis that was not relieved by other treatments. Surgery may now come into options if your condition affects your daily living activities. Some of these surgical treatments are:

-Joint replacement (Arthroplasty). In this surgery, damaged joint surfaces will be replaced with plastic and metal devices called prostheses. Most commonly replaced joints are the hip and knee. At present, shoulder, elbow, finger and ankle can now be replaced by implants. Life span of a new joint depends on your physical activity. Some of the knee and hip joints can last for 20 years. Joint replacement surgery can aid you resume an active, pain-free lifestyle. In smaller hand joints, it can even improve appearance and give comfort and further enhance mobility. However, there's a small risk for infection and bleeding in joint replacement surgery. The artificial joints may come loose in some time and need to be replaced.

-Cleaning up the area around the joint (debridement). Loose pieces of cartilage may be recommended to be removed from around your joint to ease pain. Debridement is best helpful if you experience a locking sensation from a torn cartilage or loose debris in your knee joint. Debridement is typically done through the incision to allow your surgeon to examine inside your joint. The surgeon uses special surgical tools to clean out unwanted debris from your joint.

-Realigning bones. This surgery can eliminate pain and is regularly chosen putting aside joint replacement surgery for younger people with osteoarthritis. During osteotomy, the surgeon cuts across the bone either above or below knee to realign the leg. Osteotomy can ease knee pain by transferring force of joint away from worn-out part of the knee.

-Fusing bones (Arthrodesis). Bones in a joint may be fused to increase stability and reduce pain. The fused joints, like the ankle, can now bear weight without pain but flexibility is absent. Arthrodesis may be done if severe pain is experienced and patient can't undergo joint replacement.


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Ms. Oshamisu, Nigeria

Ms. Oshamisu from Nigeria came to Apollo Hospitals for treatment of fibroids in her uterus.