Arthritis affects millions of people yearly. Over a patient’s lifetime, the protective cartilage surrounding the bones wears out. This causes pain and decreased joint mobility. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis commonly damages the joints in a patient’s knees, hips, hands, lower back and neck; however, it can affect any joint in the body.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis worsens over time and has numerous symptoms. These symptoms include pain, stiffness and tenderness in the joints. Patients may also experience loss of flexibility, a grating sensation in their joints and bone spurs. Pain in the joints may occur when a patient moves the joint or afterwards. Tenderness occurs when light pressure is applied to the joint. As osteoarthritis progresses, stiffness may begin to be noticed. Stiffness generally happens upon awakening or after long periods of inactivity or rest. A patient may lose flexibility and may no longer have full range of motion in the joints where the osteoarthritis is located.
Patients may hear a grating noise or experience a pop whenever it is moved. Many patients also find hard lumps in or around their joints. The lumps are bone spurs, or tiny bits of bone that have fragmented away from the joint.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
Each bone has cartilage on the end of it. When the cartilage begins to deteriorate, osteoarthritis occurs. The cartilage provides a smooth surface for frictionless movement. As osteoarthritis occurs, the cartilage becomes rough, resulting in pain and joint stiffness. If the cartilage completely deteriorates, the patient’s bone will rub against bone.
Risk factors of Osteoarthritis
There are numerous risk factors when it comes to osteoarthritis. These include age, sex and bone problems. As patients age, their chances of developing osteoarthritis increase. Although the reason is unknown, women are more like than men to develop osteoarthritis. Patients who have defective joints and cartilage are also at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Joint injuries from accidents or sports increase the chances of developing osteoarthritis. Obese people often are diagnosed with this type of arthritis. Physicians believe that the extra weight in obese people puts extra pressure on the joint. Repetitive movements while working is also a risk factor.
There are medical conditions that can increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Diabetes, gout, Paget’s disease and an underactive thyroid can all lead to osteoarthritis. Researchers speculate that the stress caused by these and other diseases can negatively impact the joints.
Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis
A thorough physical examination is the first step in getting a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. A physician will examine the joint and determine range of motion. The doctor will inspect each affected joint for swelling, redness or tenderness. If a physician thinks you may have osteoarthritis, he may order imaging tests and laboratory testing. The imaging tests may include X-rays and a magnetic resonance imaging test. X-rays may show narrowing of the joints, bone spurs and other evidence of osteoarthritis. A magnetic resonance imaging test, or MRI, utilizes a magnetic field and radio wave to produce images of bones, muscles and other soft tissues.
Physicians may also utilize a variety of lab tests to help diagnose osteoarthritis. Blood tests are used to rule out other medical conditions that may be causing the pain a patient is experiencing. These medical conditions include cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, a physician may test fluid from a patient’s joint to help with diagnosis. For this test a doctor will place a needle in the joint and draw a sample of fluid and send it to the laboratory.
Osteoarthritis affects millions of people each year. This common type of arthritis causes pain, decreased mobility, and tenderness. As patients age, the risk of osteoarthritis increases. The most common joints to develop osteoarthritis include the knees, hips, hands, lower back and neck.
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