What is Osteoarthritis | Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Osteoarthritis Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Osteoarthritis is the most familiar form of arthritis, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones unravels down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most typically impacts joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. 

This complex disorder is comprised of several different conditions and is characterized by a common symptom: pain and inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis (OA)is also known as degenerative arthritis. 

Signs of osteoarthritis start to happen during the onset of the breakdown of the cartilage of one or more joints. Ultimately, as the illness progresses, the cartilage becomes fully damaged, resulting in a loss. The typical affected areas include the hands, feet, spine, and large weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and the knees. 

Osteoarthritis appears in over a million individuals in the World, comprising 30% of the 70 million people in total affected by arthritis and other rheumatoid diseases. It is also more often observed among women over the age of 55. 

What causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is most especially related to ageing. As someone ages, the cartilage (the connective tissue that delivers cushioning in the joints) increases in water content, in turn, inducing its protein content to degenerate. And as the cartilage is mainly protein, this change fully upsets the cartilage makeup. 

The cartilage thins as a consequence of wear and tear. Without the cushioning provided by the cartilage, repetitious use of the joints over the years causes friction, which in turn results in irritation of the joints and finally swelling. 

As osteoarthritis advances, the cartilage begins to flake off or forms tiny crevasses. In some cases, the cartilage of an individual with osteoarthritis may even form new bone outgrowths called “spurs.” Finally, when the case is so advanced, there is a total loss of the cartilage, leading to severe pain and limitation of joint mobility. 

Osteoarthritis can be genetic both primary such as nodular arthritis or OA of the hands as well as secondary related to other genetic disorders, such as hypermobility of joints. Inflammatory and infectious arthritis can contribute to the growth of secondary arthritis or OA due to chronic inflammation and joint demolition. Earlier injuries or traumas including sports-related and repetitive motions can also contribute to osteoarthritis (OA).

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Unlike the other two typical forms of arthritis (lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis (OA) is not a systemic illness. That means, it only impacts the joints and not any other organs of the body. 

The most typical symptom of arthritis or OA is, of course, joint pain, often after repetitive use. The pain is worse later in the daytime usually though pain could also happen right after an extended period of rest. Patients with osteoarthritis may also mark swelling, warmth, and creaking of the affected joints. Some stiffness and pain may appear as well.

Osteoarthritis may vary from patient to patient as some may be so debilitated by the condition that they cannot move. Others may suffer only a few symptoms despite the deterioration of the joints. 

Also, the symptoms of arthritis or OA can be intermittent. That means that patients with osteoarthritis may suffer discomfort for several years and then suddenly enjoy pain-free intervals the next. As there is no cure yet, the illness may never completely go away.

So, in short signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness in joint movement
  • Tenderness
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Grating sensation
  • Swelling

Treatment of Osteoarthritis

X-rays of the joints affected by osteoarthritis are the most accurate way of diagnosing patients with this kind of arthritis. The x-ray will show whether there is a loss of joint cartilage, or there is a narrowing of the joint space between adjacent bones. X-rays are also useful in order to determine what caused the joint pain – whether it is only provoked by over usage or whether there are really the beginnings of the illness evident.

For instance, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Mild to moderate symptoms are generally well managed by a variety of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments. Medical treatments and suggestions include:

  • Pharmaceuticals(topical pain medications and oral analgesics including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, NSAIDs).
  • Exercise (Physical exercise based on the land- and water).
  • Periodical hot and cold packs (local modalities).
  • Physical, occupational, and exercise treatment.
  • Weight loss (if you are overweight).
  • Healthy eating, supervising diabetes and cholesterol.
  • Supportive instructions such as braces, orthotics, shoe inserts, cane, or walker.
  • Intra-articular injection treatments(steroid, hyaluronic acid “gel”).
  • Complementary and alternative drug treatment strategies, including vitamins and supplements.

Risk factors

Factors that can raise your risk of osteoarthritis include:

Older age

The risk of osteoarthritis rises with age.


Women are more probable to develop arthritis or OA, though it isn’t clear why.


Carrying extra body weight contributes to osteoarthritis in various ways, and the more you weigh, the more prominent your risk. Raised weight adds stress to weight-bearing joints, such as your hips and knees. Likewise, fat tissue produces proteins that can provoke harmful inflammation in and around your joints.

Joint injuries

Injuries, such as those that happen when playing sports or from an accident, can raise the risk of osteoarthritis. Even injuries that happened many years ago and are seemingly healed can raise your risk of arthritis.

Repeated stress on the joint

If your job or a sport you play places repetitious stress on a joint, that joint might ultimately develop osteoarthritis.


Some individuals inherit a tendency to develop osteoarthritis.

Bone deformities

Some individuals are born with malformed joints or defective cartilage.

Certain metabolic illnesses

These contain diabetes and a disease in which your body has too much iron (hemochromatosis).


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative illness that deepens over time, often resulting in chronic pain. Joint pain and stiffness can become extreme enough to make daily tasks difficult.

Depression and sleep disorders can result from the pain and disability of osteoarthritis.

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