What is Osteoarthritis?
Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints. OA can affect any joint, but it occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe.
In normal joints, a firm, rubbery material called cartilage covers the end of each bone. Cartilage provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between the bones. In OA, the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. As OA worsens over time, bones may break down and develop growths called spurs. Bits of bone or cartilage may chip off and float around in the joint. In the body, an inflammatory process occurs and cytokines (proteins) and enzymes develop that further damage the cartilage. In the final stages of OA, the cartilage wears away and bone rubs against bone leading to joint damage and more pain.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Symptoms vary, depending on which joints are affected and how severely they are affected. However, the most common symptoms are pain and stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting. Affected joints may get swollen, especially after extended activity. These symptoms tend to build over time rather than show up suddenly. Some of the common symptoms include:
Sore or stiff joints – particularly the hips, knees, and lower back – after inactivity or overuse.
• Limited range of motion or stiffness that goes away after movement
• Clicking or cracking sound when a joint bends
• Mild swelling around a joint
• Pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day
Here are ways OA may affect different parts of the body:
• Hips. Pain is felt in the groin area or buttocks and sometimes on the inside of the knee or thigh.
• Knees. A “grating” or “scraping” sensation occurs when moving the knee.
• Fingers. Bony growths (spurs) at the edge of joints can cause fingers to become swollen, tender and red. There may be pain at the base of the thumb.
• Feet. Pain and tenderness is felt in the large joint at the base of the big toe. There may be swelling in ankles or toes.
OA pain, swelling or stiffness may make it difficult to perform ordinary tasks at work or at home. Simple acts like tucking in bed sheets, opening a box of food, grasping a computer mouse or driving a car can become nearly impossible. When the lower body joints are affected, activities such as walking, climbing stairs and lifting objects may become difficult. When finger and hand joints are affected, osteoarthritis can make it difficult to grasp and hold objects, such as a pencil, or to do delicate tasks, such as needlework.
Many people believe that the effects of osteoarthritis are inevitable, so they don’t do anything to manage it. OA symptoms can hinder work, social life and family life if steps are not taken to prevent joint damage, manage pain and increase flexibility.
Information courtesy of http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis