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Osteoarthritis - What it is and how to treat it.

Arthritis describes a wide range of conditions (over 100). These can range from relatively mild forms e.g. tendonitis through to various crippling forms of systemic arthritis such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. There are also some forms of arthritis for example Gout which most people don't associate with arthritis at all.

A significant number of people also think that arthritis is just a condition which old people suffer, and indeed, it is true that a significant number of the sufferers of arthritis are old, but there is an awful lot of younger people who suffer from one form or another of Arthritis.


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  Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of Arthritis affecting around 1 in 10 people to some degree. It affects both men and women equally. Osteoarthritis is caused by bits of cartilage in the joint which have broken free. This can cause pain and swelling in the joint. This pain and swelling is Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis occurs in the joints, however, it is predominantly found in hands and load bearing joints such as hips, knees. It is described as a non-inflammatory type of arthritis which means that there is no swelling in the joint affected by Osteoarthritis. This has been subsequently proven not to be the case. In the early stages of Osteoarthritis, it is true that there is no swelling in the joint, however, in the later stages, there can be swelling.

As the Osteoarthritis develops, bits of the cartilage in the joint break off and float around inside the joint. This disturbs other soft tissues within the joint causing pain and swelling. Over time, as the condition develops, the cartilage becomes rougher and thinner causing the bone underneath to become thicker.

The main symptoms of Osteoarthritis are painful and stiff joints. Although this can vary depending upon which joint is affected. The stiffness is usually worse in the morning, sometimes taking up to 30 minutes for the stiffness to disappear. This stiffness may also occur after a period of resting that joint and may take a few minutes for it to disappear once the joint starts to be used again.

Another symptom of Osteoarthritis is a creaking or grinding noise which occurs when the joint is moved. Also, moving the joint through a full range of movement may not be possible.

If the Osteoarthritis has been present for a significant period of time, the muscles may become weaker through insufficient use as the patient subconsciously avoids using that joint. Also, the joint may appear swollen caused by bony growths called osteophytes or extra synovial fluid.

The severity of these symptoms can be related to the patient's daily activity, anxiety and depression.

Primary Osteoarthritis is mostly related to ageing. As we get older, the water content of cartilage increases and the protein makeup of it degenerates. Repetitive use of the joints over the years will irritate and inflame the cartilage. Eventually the cartilage starts to flake away causing crevasses. In some advanced cases, the cartilage has disappeared. The loss of the cartilage means that the bones which the cartilage is protecting can bump and grind against each other leading to pain and joint immobility. Inflammation of the cartilage can lead to bony outgrowths (spurs) appearing around the joints.

Secondary Osteoarthritis is caused by other conditions which lead to Osteoarthritis. These can be things such as obesity where the joints are placed under more stress due to the excessive weight of the patient, repeated trauma or surgery to joints, abnormal joints at birth, gout and diabetes.

 
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While there is no cure at present for Osteoarthritis, there are a number of ways of managing this condition to minimise the symptoms.

There are different types of medicines which may be used depending upon the type of Osteoarthritis the patient is suffering from.

Analgesics This is often the first medication prescribed to relieve the symptoms of Osteoarthritis. It is a pain reliever and does nothing to reduce the level of inflammation so can usually be safely taken alongside other medication. However, as with all medication, there are limits on how much a person can safely taken within a time period.

Creams and Gels These may provide some temporary pain relief, however, the pain relief will be localised to the area that the cream is applied.

Codeine Preparations Codeine is a narcotic which reduces the patient's sensitivity to pain. They can usually be taken in conjunction with Analgesics. In low doses, it can be taken without prescription. A side effect of taking Codeine is that it may cause Constipation.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) This type of medicine helps to reduce the inflammation if taken at a high dosage. If taking a low dosage, then they will just relieve the pain. However, they do not stop further damage to the joint. NSAID's don't start working and may require regular doses over a few weeks before they noticeable improvement takes place. There are some common side effects including stomach upset, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Corticosteroids This medicine is injected directly into the affected joint. When Osteoarthritis has developed so far that the patient struggles to get around, then this medicine is a viable option. Cortisone is a steroid which reduces inflammation and swelling. This medicine provides almost instant relief although it can only be taken rarely as it takes away minerals from the existing cartilage causing further damage.

Also, depending upon what type of Osteoarthritis you are suffering from, it is possible certain forms of exercise may relieve some of the symptoms and enable the sufferer to continue to live as normal a live as possible.

As with taking any medicine, you should always read the instructions supplied with them and follow any advice given by your doctor. You should always seek professional medical attention and not simply rely on your own research before embarking upon a course of treatment.

Osteoarthritis is a very common arthritic condition for which we have no cure, although there are many ways of relieving the symptoms so that the patient can lead as normal a life as possible. For more information on Osteoarthritis, visit my site Arthritis Relief where hopefully you will find some information which will be informative and interesting.

 
 
     
 
 





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