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Osteoarthritis

Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in the United States, affecting nearly 66 million Americans (nearly 1 out of every 3 adults). Arthritis, however, is not just one disease; more than 100 forms of the disease exist, with osteoarthritis being the most common.

Osteoarthritis is not an inevitable part of aging, says Marian Hannan, D.Sc., M.P.H., an expert on arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders at Hebrew SeniorLife's Institute for Aging Research, and preventive measures can be taken to ward off the disease and lessen symptoms.

Definition

A degenerative disease in which cartilage that covers the ends of bones and allows them to move easily deteriorates, causing pain and limited range of motion as bone begins to rub against bone.

Causes

  • Normal wear-and-tear of a joint
  • Thickened bone and formation of bony growths or spurs that interfere with joint movement
  • Diseases or conditions such as obesity, trauma, diabetes or congenital abnormalities

Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Joint stiffness, especially after sleep or inactivity
  • Limited joint movement as the disease progresses
  • Numbness
  • Weakness in the arm or leg at advanced stages
  • Back pain

The symptoms of osteoarthritis may mimic other disorders so it is important to consult a physician or other health-care provider for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk Factors

  • Age; generally 45 and older
  • Being female
  • Hereditary conditions such as defective cartilage or malformed joints
  • Obesity
  • Joint injuries from physical activities, sports or occupational repetitive movements
  • Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and gout that change the normal structure and function of cartilage
  • Weak muscles, especially the quadriceps, which may lead to arthritis of the knee

Diagnosis

  • X-ray
  • CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can detect bone spurs, worn-down cartilage, and loss of joint space
  • Joint aspiration - the removal of fluid from the joint to exclude infection or gout as a possible cause.

Treatment

  • Exercises to help reduce symptoms and pain associated with osteoarthritis
  • Heat treatment to reduce pain or cold compresses to reduce inflammation
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Weight maintenance
  • Medications such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatories
  • Joint injections with liquids that mimic joint fluids
  • Joint replacement surgery
  • Arthroscopic lavage and debridement to remove blood, fluid and loose debris in the joint

Glossary

Arthritis - a catchphrase for more than 100 conditions that are characterized primarily by inflammation of a joint and usually accompanied by pain, swelling and stiffness.

Cartilage - a smooth material that covers the ends of bones to cushion the bones and allow joints to move easily without pain.

Computerized tomography (CT) scan - a noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images of the body, showing detailed images of bone, muscle, fat and organs.

Debridement - the removal of non-living tissue to help speed the healing process.

Gout - a painful condition resulting from defects in body chemistry (such as uric acid in joint fluid) that often attacks small joints.

Joint aspiration - a procedure, also called arthrocentesis, in which a sterile needle and syringe is used to drain fluid from a joint.

Joint replacement surgery - a surgical procedure in which an arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint.

Lavage - the therapeutic washing out of an organ or other body part with injections of water.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and computers to produce detailed images of organs and structures in the body.

Osteoarthritis - a degenerative condition caused by wear and tear that leads to inflammation of a joint, swelling, pain and stiffness.

Quadriceps - a large, four-part muscle at the front of the thigh that facilitates leg extension.

Range of motion - the extent of movement of a joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory disease that involves the lining of a joint (called the synovium) and which usually affects the hands and feet.

Links

Arthritis Foundation: www.arthritis.org 


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