Osteoarthritis is a condition where the joint cartilage wears away. It is also called degenerative arthritis. It is primarily caused by aging, although it can occur after an injury or surgery. Cartilage is a connective tissue between the bones and the joints that protects the joints from damage. If it degenerates, it leads to pain and mobility problems.Commonly affected areas include the knees, hips, hands, feet and spinal column.
General symptoms include:
• Feeling stiff
• Finding it difficult to move the affected joints
• Joints that look knobbly or unstable
• Warmth in your joints
If you have osteoarthritis in your hips, you may also suffer from:
• Pain in your hips
• Referred pain in your knees
• Pain in your buttocks or thighs
• Difficulty moving your hips and doing daily activities such as bending over
If you have osteoarthritis in your hands, you may also suffer from:
• Stiff fingers
• Pain and swelling of the fingers
• Abnormally large looking finger joints
• A ‘crackling’ sound in the joints
• Difficulty with tasks such as writing
If you have knee osteoarthritis, you may suffer from:
• Pain in your knees
• Pain when walking
• ‘Locking’ knee joints
• Clicking or grating knee caps
If you are older than 45 and you have any of the above symptoms, your doctor will examine your joints to confirm whether you have osteoarthritis. An X-ray may be offered to rule out any injury you may have sustained, as fractures can cause similar symptoms.
• Acetaminophen to ease mild pain.
•Anti-inflammatory pain killers to reduce pain and swelling if acetaminophen is not strong enough to help.
•Topical anti-inflammatory cream – this can be rubbed onto the affected areas.
• Codeine for severe pain- or you may be offered another morphine based painkiller like injections of steroids into your joints to decrease inflammation.
• Joint fusion surgery- when a surgeon fuses your joints together so you can no longer move them. If none of these options help and the condition is affecting your daily life, you might be able to have joint replacement or joint fusion surgery, depending on where the problem is located.
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.