Eight things you need to know about osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the joints and the cartilage, the soft tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage is slippery and allows bones to glide over each other. It also helps absorb shock of movement.

In osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This makes bones under the cartilage to rub together. The rubbing causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape.

Here is a list of 8 things you should know about osteoarthritis:

1) Osteoarthritis is a disease that develops slowly with its symptoms showing up gradually. It can occur alone or together with another type of arthritis.

2) Knees, hips, and the spine are the most commonly affected parts of the body as they bear most of our weight. Osteoarthritis can also affect fingers or any joint with prior traumatic injury, infection, or inflammation. Bony nodes and knobs on fingers (e.g. Heberden's or Bouchard's nodes) are a sign of damage from osteoarthritis.

3) Though osteoarthritis is more prevalent among older people, the joint disease can affect people of all ages. Seventy percent of people older than 70 are reportedly suffering from osteoarthritis in the United States.

4) Osteoarthritis is more common in women than men. Interestingly, men under 55 years are more likely to have osteoarthritis than women below the same age group. After 55 years, women are more commonly affected by osteoarthritis.

5) Patients with Osteoarthritis suffer from pain and motion in the affected joint as characteristic symptoms. This is a result of progressive damage to the joint cartilage and changes to structures around the joint, causing fluid accumulation (joint effusion), bony overgrowth (osteophytes), and weakness of tendons and muscles can also result from the degenerative process.

6) Osteoarthritis pain increases during activity, which is relieved with rest. Movement and activity typically cause pain in the affected joint for osteoarthritis patients. Late-stage osteoarthritis is characterized by severe pain and unstable joints.

7) Those suffering from obesity, injury of the joints, muscle weakness, rheumatoid arthritis, hemochromatosis, and acromegaly are some of the risk factors associated with osteoarthritis. Age and family history are the highest risk factors.

8) Osteoarthritis has no known cure. Medications to relieve pain and swelling, exercise, weight control, joint protection techniques, complementary or alternative treatments, physical therapy/occupational therapy and surgery are used to manage the disease.

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