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  Arthritis Fracture   ·  Osteoporosis   ·  Orthopedic Surgery  

Arthritis

Introduction 

Because it is the oldest and most common form of arthritis, the following information is focused on osteoarthritis (aus-tea-o-are-thri-tis). 

Most commonly affecting middle-aged and older people, OA can range from very mild to very severe. It affects hands and weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips, feet and the back. 

What is osteoarthritis? 

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects the cartilage. Cartilage is the cushiony tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another. It also absorbs energy from the shock of physical movement. 

During the development of osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down and wears away. The deterioration causes bones under the cartilage to rub against each other, resulting in pain, swelling, and loss of motion. Over time, the joint may also lose its normal shape. In addition, bone spurs (osteophytes) may appear on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space causing more pain and damage. 

People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and limited movement. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and does not impact internal organs. Rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common form of arthritis, can affect several parts of the body. It usually appears at a younger age than osteoarthritis, causes swelling and redness in joints, and may make people feel sick, tired, and feverish. 

What causes osteoarthritis? 

There are many risk factors that can cause OA. Although age is a risk factor, research has shown that OA is not an inevitable part of aging. Obesity may lead to osteoarthritis of the knees. In addition, people with joint injuries due to sports, work-related activity or accidents may be at increased risk of developing OA. 

Genetics has a role in the development of OA, particularly in the hands. Some people may be born with defective cartilage or with slight defects in the way that joints fit together. As a person ages, these defects may cause early cartilage breakdown in the joint. In the process of cartilage breakdown, there may be some inflammation, with enzymes released and more cartilage damage. 

How do I know if I have osteoarthritis? 

OA is diagnosed by a doctor and the diagnosis is based on a physical examination and history of symptoms. X-rays are usually used to confirm diagnosis. Most people over 55 years of age reflect osteoarthritis on X-rays and about a third of those with OA have actual symptoms. 

What treatments are available for osteoarthritis? 

Decreasing pain and improving joint movement are the primary osteoarthritis treatments and may include: 

Exercises to keep joints flexible and improve muscle strength
Medications to control pain such as:
o Oral corticosteroids
o Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
o Injectable corticosteroids
o OTC internal analgesics such as aspirin or acetaminophen
o OTC topical analgesics
o Joint health supplements such as chrondroitin sulfate and glucosamine
Heat/cold therapy for temporary relief of pain
Joint protection to prevent strain or stress
Surgery of damaged joints
Weight control

Will I develop osteoarthritis…who gets the disease?  

Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 21 million Americans, mostly after age 40
Women are more likely to get OA than men
By 2030, 20% of Americans, or approximately 70 million people, will be 65 years of age or older and will be at risk for osteoarthritis.

How can arthritis be prevented? 

Unfortunately as of today, a cure for arthritis does not exist. Arthritis prevention and knowing how to take care of your own joints are the best ways to either avoid or control osteoarthritis. Arthritis prevention techniques are familiar to most people. They are the same recommendations as those mentioned for maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet and watching your weight. 

Steps you can take to protect your joints: 

While you may not be able to control genetics or the consequences of that old athletic injury, there are steps you can take to protect your joints and help prevent OA. Here are a few: 

Watch your weight. The heavier you are the more stress you put on your joints, especially your hips, knees, back and feet.
Exercise. Physical activity protects joints by strengthening the muscles around them. Strong muscles keep joints from rubbing against one another and wearing down cartilage. Warm water exercise is popular with people suffering from osteoarthritis.
Maintain good posture. It protects the joints in your neck, back, hips and knees.
Use your big joints. When lifting or carrying, use the largest and strongest joints and muscles. This will help you avoid injury and strain on smaller joints.
Pace your activities. Alternate periods of heavy activity with periods of rest and relaxation. Repetitive stress on joints over long periods of time can accelerate the wear and tear of joints.
Pay attention to your body. If you experience pain, don't ignore it. Pain after physical activity or exercise can be an indication of overstressed joints.
Don't be stagnant. Continually changing positions will help decrease the stiffness in your muscles and joints.
Be nice to your body. Don't engage in physical activity that your body isn't prepared for. Start new activities slowly and safely until you know how your body will react to them. This will help reduce the potential injury.
Wear protective equipment. Wear those helmets and wrist pads and make sure you get safety gear that is comfortable and fits appropriately.
Ask for assistance. Don't try to do a job that is too big for you to handle alone. Get another pair of hands to help out.
Eat healthy foods and get recommended daily amounts of vitamin C, vitamin D and other important nutrients.
If you have arthritis, you may consider taking a supplement that is “chondroprotective”, one that helps maintain healthy cartilage.
If your doctor prescribes it, take your medication as directed.

Following the tips listed above may minimize your risk of arthritis and help keep your joints healthy!

Note: All information on this website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for a specific medical condition. Please consult your physician if you have questions or concerns regarding your health.
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