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What is Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common forms of arthritis and it usually occurs most frequently in the hips, hands, knees and ankles.  The severity of osteoarthritis can vary greatly from person to person, and this can usually differ in terms of the affected joints. OA is typically called the degenerative joint disease or in other words the ‘wear and tear’ arthritis.

Osteoarthritis comes with several symptoms that includes Swelling, Tenderness, Grating or crackling sounds when moving the joint or area that’s affected.

What can Osteoarthritis Cause?

Throughout your life your joints will be exposed to low levels of damage and small amounts of wear and tear – naturally your body repairs the damage itself and you do not experience any real symptoms, however OA is the breakdown of the cartilage causing changes in the bone and deterioration of the connective tissue that helps the bone, joints and muscles together. Additionally, Osteoarthritis also causes inflammation of the joint lining.

The absolute exact cause of Osteoarthritis is unknown unfortunately, however there are several things that could increase your risk of developing OA, these include:

  • Family History – If OA runs in the family, this could increase your risk of Osteoarthritis in the future.
  • Your Age – Your risk of developing Osteoarthritis increases as you become older. Most people over the ages of 60 have OA to a specific degree but quite mild at times, however it’s still very possible to develop osteoarthritis between the ages of 20’s and 30’s. For those pld than 50 years old OA is more common in women than in men.
  • Joint Injuries – The overuse of your joints when they’ve not had enough time to heal after an operation or injury can certainly increase your chances of Osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity / Overweight – Excessive strain and weight on your joints and bones can create major issues for your knees or hips, thus increasing the possible chance of OA.
  • Secondary Arthritis & Other possible conditions – The possibility of OA can increase when your joints are quite badly damaged by previous pre-existing conditions such as Gout or Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis of the Knee 

As mentioned earlier, OA is the most common form of arthritis and occurs even in younger people however, the chance of OA developing rises quite considerably after the ages of 50.

Some symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the knee include:

  • Feeling the warmth in and around the joint
  • Swelling around the joint
  • Pain that increases more when you’re active
  • Decreased mobility of the knee – could become quite difficult getting in and out cars

Osteoarthritis of the Hands

Osteoarthritis can usually affect three parts of the hand, such as:

  • The middle joint of the finger
  • The joint closest to the fingertip
  • The base of the thumb

Around half of all women and a ¼ of all men will experience some form of stiffness and pain in their hands, that’s most likely OA and likely to be experienced more so by 85 years old. The protective part of the cartilage on the ends of your bones begin to break down and eventually wear away – this means over time the bones begin rubbing together and causing quite a bit of pain.

Osteoarthritis of the Feet 

There are many points in your foot and ankles that can be affected by osteoarthritis – as there are 33 joints in the foot alone, the big toe is the part of the foot that is commonly affected by OA. The body is known to go through processes of repairing joints, changing their shape or general structure naturally, however when this happens in one or more of your joints, this is normally related to Osteoarthritis.

If left untreated, Osteoarthritis can at times cause further problems in your feet. These types of other problems include:

  • Bunions – Osteoarthritis and Hallux Rigidus can cause your big toe to lean towards the other toes, this is normally known as a bunion or a hallux valgus. When you have a bunion, a bony lump begins to form on your big toe and this may also come with red swollen skin over it – this results in hard skin being formed around the affected area.
  • Corns and Calluses – These usually appear on your feet when certain areas are exposed to pressure or potentially when skin repeatedly rubs against something. Corns are hard small lumps on the skin and calluses are patches of thicker skin that feel very rough; however these two conditions can be caused by other possible problems with your feet.
  • Hallux Rigidus – This condition usually occurs when Osteoarthritis is left untreated with cartilage wearing away, and this can usually result in bones in your feet joining together. Hallux Rigidus is usually when this type of situation happens in the big toe – which makes your big toe far more difficult to move and you may have trouble walking.

What is the difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis? 

There is quite a large difference between both forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the smooth cartilage in a joint surface wears out completely – this causes a major amount of pain and can also cause a number of other issues, however this depends on the affected area.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease – this is usually a direct result of the immune system malfunctioning and attacking the body rather than an intruder (infection etc).

The autoimmune disease attacks the synovial membrane which protects and encases the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis usually targets several different joints at a time.

What are the 4 stages of Osteoarthritis?

There are four stages of Osteoarthritis - the higher grades indicating more severe signs of the condition and usually require surgery.

  • Grade 0 – This is the stage where the joint is healthy and typically from X-ray’s, there is no sign of any real issues.
  • Grade 1 – Doubtful narrowing of the joint space
  • Grade 2 – This is definite bone spurs that have possibly reduced joint space
  • Grade 3 – Multiple bone spurs present and deformity of the bone contour
  • Grade 4 – This is normally the most severe form of Osteoarthritis, this usually comes with multiple problems: Large Bone Spurs, Reduction in the joint space and deformity of the bone colour.

These stages will need to be taken with a pinch of salt as symptoms experienced may vary from individual to individual, with some symptoms occurring before others.

Treatment for Osteoarthritis 

Osteoarthritis can not be reversed but there are many different treatments that can in fact reduce your pain and improve your mobility.

Medication that can help relieve some of the symptoms of OA:

  • Acetaminophen – This medication has been shown to help some people with osteoarthritis who have moderate or mild pain.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – Ibuprofen, Advil and many others when recommended by your doctor can help relieve osteoarthritis pain.

Types of therapy available for Osteoarthritis:

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – These machines have become incredibly popular when treating osteoarthritis pain relief. Tens Machines comes in all different shapes and sizes, wired or wireless but picking the right machine can be tricky for some – therefore we’ve come up with a guide to help – Choosing the Right Tens Machine.
  • Ultrasound Machines – Therapeutic Ultrasound Machines have been known to help those with Osteoarthritis. Ultrasound Machines apply deep heat that can be used for a mix of different medical conditions for minor aches and pains. These machines help reduce pain and improve the general blood flow to the affected area, especially for those with soft tissue damage.
  • Physical Exercise – Physical Therapists can help show you a mix of different exercises that are designed to help strengthen your muscles around your joints, improve your flexibility and reduce your pain. Other activities such as swimming or general walking can be equally as effective as they’re considered gentle exercises.
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