Osteoarthritis is a common disorder of joints. With aging, the cartilage becomes thin and hence breaks down. This limits the joint motion and causes intense pain. Osteoarthritis mainly affects the joints of hands, knees, hips, and toes. It often worsens with time and has no permanent cure. Middle or old aged people are commonly affected.
The actual cause of osteoarthritis is not clear. Researches show that wear-and-tear of bones often result in osteoarthritis. It may occur due to aging. This causes the deterioration of cartilages. As the cartilage is damaged, the covering of bones is removed. The bones start to rub against each other. This is assumed to be the cause of osteoarthritis. Genetic factors, overweight, fractures, etc can worsen the condition.
The symptoms vary with the type of joints affected. Pain and stiffness in joints is usually experienced. Other symptoms include:
- Tenderness and swelling in the joints
- Grating or clicking sensation while joint motion
- Bone spurs
- Loss of mobility and flexibility
The affected joint is, initially, examined for symptoms. Swelling, tenderness, and range of motion is closely analyzed. Lab tests such as blood tests and joint fluid analysis are useful. They help to detect the cause of symptoms and presence of any infection. In addition, certain imaging tests are also done. X-rays and MRI scan is used to view any bone spurs.
Treatments are done to reduce the symptoms and maintain joint health. The treatments include:
- Non-surgical Treatment:
The non-surgical treatment includes a variety of methods of treatment:
Medications are useful in controlling the overall symptoms. They are capable of reducing pain and swelling in the joint. High dosage may often cause liver and kidney problem, bleeding problem, cardiovascular disorder, nausea, and constipation. The commonly used medications are:
- Non-steroidal ant-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Exercises are useful to lower the effects of osteoarthritis. They improve the strength of muscles and reduce joint pain. Weight loss is also essential. Putting extra pressure or strain on the affected joint can worsen the condition. These therapies enhance flexibility and functionality. Water exercises, such as swimming, are usually recommended. Braces and casts help with daily activities.
- Surgical Treatment:
The surgical treatments for osteoarthritis are:
- Realigning bones / Osteotomy
The osteotomy procedure involves re-aligning of leg to proper position. This is done by making incision below or above knee bone. As a result, the excessive body weight is moved away from the affected joint. This reduces the pain and swelling in the joint.
- Joint replacement / Arthroplasty
In arthroplasty surgery, the loosened or ruptured joint surfaces are cleared out. A plastic or metallic prosthesis is then injected into the joint. This treatment is mainly used to treat damaged joints of knee and hip.
In post-treatment, a complete bed rest for 12-24 hours is advised. Healthy ways to lose weight should be adopted. A small weight loss is beneficial in giving relief from pain. Medications, creams or assistive devices can be used after surgery. They give temporary or permanent pain relief. Stretching and strengthening exercises are useful to provide a stable joint. The recovery usually takes 2-3 months.
As in any surgery, some risks are involved in treating osteoarthritis:
- Limited joint motion
- Difficulty to do daily activities
- Reaction to medications
- Poor alignment of bones