Understanding Osteoarthritis

by Amy Pusey
(last updated April 17, 2009)

Osteoarthritis is the oldest arthritic condition, and is in archeological records after having been diagnosed in skeletal remains over 10,000 years old. The basic symptoms probably have not changed that much over thousands of years, with sufferers experiencing stiffness, pain and restricted movement in their joints. While Osteoarthritis is the general term used by most doctors, you may also hear it referred to as degenerative joint disease or hypertrophic (excessive amounts of nutrients) arthritis. Despite its longevity in the world of medicine, doctors have yet to determine the nature of its causes, and while they are able to provide effective treatments these days there is still no cure on the horizon. General signs that Osteoarthritis preparing to rear its ugly head may include the following:

  • Stiffness in the morning that lasts at least 30 minutes after waking
  • A limp is revealed when walking
  • Pain near the groin, thighs, and derriere
  • A grating or catching sensation with moving the knee
  • Larger thigh muscles are weak
  • Tenderness and swelling in affected joint areas
  • Pain and tenderness in the great toe's largest joint
  • Pressure in the spinal cord (sensation of pinched nerves)

Doctors have been able to identify two particular types (or categories) of Osteoarthritis. Primary Osteoarthritis has been classified as the standard associated with aging due to the natural, progressive wear-and-tear of the cartilage. Secondary Osteoarthritis is used to identify a presumed or related cause for the deterioration. This secondary group encompasses a number of risk factors that doctors will specifically look at to determine if there is a relationship between their presence and the development of the Osteoarthritis. These risk factors include:

  • Age. Odds of experiencing even a modest degree of arthritis increase as you age. However, that does not insinuate that all elderly individuals will eventually be dealing with a form of arthritis.
  • Injury. Previous injuries or surgeries can make an individual more susceptible to developing arthritis in the affected joints. Collegiate and professional athletes often find that after years of abuse to their large joints through repetitive activities results in dealing with the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Body Weight. The impact of every extra pound can be incredible to the joints, especially the hips and knees. Because of location and distribution, every additional pound of body weight placed an additional 3 pounds of pressure to the hip and knee joints.
  • Muscle Weakness. A weakness in the muscles around weight-bearing joints, especially the knees, provides an environment for Osteoarthritis to develop. By keeping these muscles active and strong, the risk is reduced.
  • Genetics. Heredity is becoming a prominent factor in individuals developing Osteoarthritis. Bone abnormalities, such as double-jointed hands or bowed legs, as presenting as greater risk factors for developing the disease. However, just because an abnormality is present does not ensure the arthritis will occur.
  • Diseases. If Rheumatoid Arthritis is a condition you are already suffering, this can put you at risk for developing Osteoarthritis. Having too much iron in your body, called Hemochromotosis, can break down the cartilage between the joints. Also, growth hormones in excessive quantities, which are known as Acromegaly, can greatly impact the health and stability of the bones and joints.

In order to make a proper diagnosis and advise on an effective course of treatment, your doctor will review your medical history, perform a full physical examination, order x-rays of the affected areas, and conduct joint aspiration, which is the draining of fluid from the affected joints for laboratory analysis.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for Tips.net, as well as a resume writer for GreenThumbResumes.com. ...

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