Osteoarthritis forms part of the rheumatic illnesses which are numerous and varied. They all share the fact that they affect part of the locomotor system. However, they differ greatly in causes, evolution, and treatment.
It is characterized by the progressive loss of cartilage in the joints as a result of wear. This is usually caused by aging, but it can also be influenced by other factors. This illness is fairly common in people over the age of 50.
Actually, osteoarthritis is the most common of the rheumatic diseases. According to data from the World Organization of Health, approximately 28% of adults over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis.
It is estimated that by the year 2020, this illness will be the fourth largest cause of disability in the world.
Causes of osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis takes place when the cartilage in a joint gets worn down and degenerates. This cartilage loses its elasticity and consistency. Little by little, it loses its thickness until it has practically disappeared.
When this happens, the ends of the bones are left unprotected and their is friction between them.
The affected bones react to this effect. They make themselves denser and this causes cysts to appear inside of the bone. In addition, it also creates breaks in the bones at the edges of the joints. As a result, this deforms the bones.
Some of the factors that can cause osteoarthritis are:
- Age. The chances of having it increase exponentially after age 50.
- Sex. Women between 50 and 55 years old are the most affected.
- Excessive physical activity.
- Fractures and lesions.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic illness, so it lasts for the rest of your life. It causes strong pain, but with adequate treatment it can be controlled.
However, it’s necessary to point out that osteoarthritis does not necessarily cause disabilities or disable those who suffer from it.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is an illness that develops slowly. Its symptoms start out unnoticed, but then become more intense with time.
In general, there are five signs that suggest the presence of osteoarthritis:
- Pain in the joints. This is the first symptom. Intense pain in the joints, usually in the knees, hands, or hips.
- Stiffness. The person lacks flexibility, especially when trying to get out of bed or after having sat in one place for a while.
- Bloating and/or numbness. A simple inflammation of one or various joints can turn into numbness.
- Cracking. The patient experiences a feeling of “rubbing” or a crack when they move the affected joint.
- Discomfort in the knees, feet, hands, and hips.
Although pain is the first sign of osteoarthritis, there can also be cases where it is not present. Or, the pain may come and go.
Types of osteoarthritis and diagnosis
Osteoarthritis principally manifests in four zones of the body: the knees, hands, hips, and back. In the knees is where it’s most frequent.
In addition, it can be primary or secondary. The first has to do with the typical form of the illness while the second is caused by an injury.
Osteoarthritis in the hands almost always starts in the join and then spreads to the rest of the hand. It usually causes deformations and the functionality of your hands can be affected. Osteoarthritis in your hips causes pain in the inner part of your thigh or in the groin area. As for osteoarthritis in your back, it tends to start in the lumbar or cervical area.
Typically, the diagnosis can be done through clinical testing. Normally, this is done through x-rays, CT, and/ or an MRI. Also,the level of your osteoarthritis can be detected through a high-resolution ultrasound.
The illness itself is not considered serious. However, it can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. Despite this, the prognosis depends on each individual case. Basically, it is derived from the affected joint and how quickly the problem is worsening.
An early diagnosis and preventative measures can positively modify the prognosis. With correct treatment, you will be able to slow down the development of your osteoarthritis and decrease its severity.
The treatment is almost always pharmacological and has to do with making changes to a healthier lifestyle. In some cases, the normal methods fail and it eventually becomes necessary to get surgery. Generally, surgery helps to improve the symptoms and improve your mobility.