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Identifying Osteoarthritis

This degeneration of joints can cause redness, swelling, and pain. Why is it common among adults 65 and up?

What is Osteoarthritis?

Also known as degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that predominantly affects the joints in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, hands, and feet. It is the most common form of arthritis, affecting a reported 30 million Americans.

In healthy joints, cartilage acts as a cushion between bones, allowing smooth motion. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the bones breaks down and causes swelling, pain, and movement issues in the joints. Over time, these issues can lead to the breakdown of bones and the development of bone spurs. In the final stages of osteoarthritis, the cartilage wears away completely, and bones begin to rub against each other, causing more pain and damage.

Who’s Affected?

While osteoarthritis can occur in individuals of any age, it is most common in those over 65. This tends to be because the joints of aging individuals have experienced more wear and tear over the years. Other risk factors for the condition include: obesity, joint injuries, certain occupations that place repetitive stress on a particular joint, bone deformities or cartilage issues, and genetics. Women are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.

What are Common Symptoms?

Symptoms of osteoarthritis often progress over time, with individuals first feeling an achiness in the affected joint. That achiness can develop into more pronounced pain, both while in action and at rest. Other recognizable symptoms of an osteoarthritic condition include: joint stiffness, swelling, loss of flexibility, and a grating sensation, which can be felt or heard. If you are experiencing any of the above, understand that they are not normal growing pains associated with aging. Make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.

How is Osteoarthritis Treated?

While osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, symptoms can usually be effectively treated with appropriate therapies. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help ease pain, while physical and occupational therapy can help you strengthen the muscles around your joint, increase your range of motion, and discover ways to eliminate unnecessary stress on the injury site. Sport braces and pain creams can be effective as well. If conservative methods don’t work, injections or joint replacement surgeries can offer relief.

An Expert Weighs In

"As we mature, we have life experiences that can lead to wear and tear on our joints. Unfortunately, that wear and tear can develop into osteoarthritis, which is a painful condition that results in inflammation and degeneration of cartilage. For those suffering, there are many treatment options ranging from medication to physical therapy to different types of injections. Joint replacement options can also help you recover from a painful, arthritic joint when other treatments have failed. Ultimately with treatment, the primary goals are pain control and relief and improved joint function."

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