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By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: April 05, 2013

Overview and Facts

The joints in a healthy body are protected by a cover of cartilage over the bone ends which enables them to move freely and painlessly. Osteoarthritis is a disease that deteriorates the joints by affecting the cartilage which covers the surface of those bone ends. The wax-like tissue on the ends of the bones wears away allowing the bone ends to grate against each other, and even become mis-shaped. This further damages the cartilage, causing bone slivers and chips of cartilage to drift around inside the joint area between the bones causing great pain and restricting movement. Osteoarthritis affects mainly the joints in the spine, hips, knees and hands. The fingers are most noticeably affected as the joints become red, knobby, large and very painful. Primarily, older people are affected by the disease, however, injuries to the joints may cause osteoarthritis in younger people. Osteoarthritis (OA), also called Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), afflicts almost 27 million Americans. Of these, 13.9% are adults over the age of 25 and 33.6% are 65 and older. This common form of arthritis affects 151 million people around the world. The numbers are steadily growing.

Signs and Symptoms

Some signs of Osteoarthritis is pain that is often described as soreness or stiffness in the joints and is most noticeable after being inactive for a long period of time, such as arising after a night’s sleep, or from sitting in a chair. Other signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis are some joints that become swollen or tender to the touch, especially after activity, such as exercise, or walking. Other signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis include the hands, which are particularly affected because the hands are used almost continuously. Deterioration of cartilage produces a grinding noise when bone rubs on bone; the affected joints become stiff and progressively more difficult to move. Abnormal bone growth within the joint causes pain. When the hip is affected, the ligaments and muscles become less pliable. Walking become difficult and unstable. Strangely, some, but not all joints in the body may be affected.

Causes and Diagnosis

The cause of Osteoarthritis is unknown. However, the “wear-and-tear” disease is thought to be caused by several characteristics which includes: age (more often the older individuals, rather than the young); weight (over weight, rather than under weight); malformed joints; injury to the joint; genetic flaws; and repetitious use of joints in job performance. Also, most sports can and do cause excessive joint use. The diagnosis of Osteoarthritis is difficult because the disease comes on gradually and worsens over time. There is not a specific blood test to diagnose Osteoarthritis, but it can rule out other problems. Diagnosis is made by using several methods and ruling out hunches. For example, Doctors look into a patient’s medical history, and check for any abnormalcies during a physical exam. Fluid from the joints may be examined for irregularities, while X-rays will find any damage to the joints at the ends of the bones.

Tests and Treatment Options

Doctors test for Osteoarthritis by checking joint movement for a crackling, or grating noise. Limbs are also checked for limited motion range. Sometimes, in checking the range of motion, even the most common movement can be painful. Further tests for Osteoarthritis encompass pressing the joints to determine tenderness and swelling. Treatment for Osteoarthritis includes surgery as an option, although surgery can not cure Osteoarthritis. In the meantime, trying other therapies and treatments can push surgery farther into the future. The majority of doctors suggest using over-the-counter pain medicines, usually acetaminophen (Tylenol). There are many pain medicines to choose from, of which one or two may prove to be quite effective for all other symptoms of Osteoarthritis. For persistent pain, and to relieve swelling in the joints, doctors often prescribe NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspiran, ibuprofen, naproxen.

Helpful Tips and Home Remedies

Numerous tips and home remedies are available to help those who suffer with Osteoarthritis. A diet that is healthy and balanced is one with emphasis on the individual losing weight if need be. Stress on the joints can be lessened at work and at home by making changes in the way things are usually done. Resting the body often goes far in protecting the joints. For those times when pain is intense, applying heat and cold alternately, often brings immediate relief. Other tips and home remedies for Osteoarthritis consists of taking vitamins, mineral, herbs and supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. There are creams and ointments that help relieve pain by heating the skin as it is rubbed in. Capsaicin (Zostrix) is just one of several. Pain may be relieved for 3 – 6 months by artificial joint fluid (Synvisc, Hyalgan) injections into the knee. More Osteoarthritis tips and home remedies consists of finding ways to help patients take care of themselves and to adjust their day to day routines. A physical therapist can recommend swimming as an aqua exercise routine and other water exercises. As soon as the doctor recommends making lifestyle changes, getting started in an exercise program will enrich the life of an individual with Osteoarthritis. Exercise improves joint movement and overall mobility and may help relieve the pain of Osteoarthritis.


  • http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/osteoarthritis-basics
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/DS00019
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/osteoarthritis/article.htm
  • http://arthritis.about.com/od/oa/Osteoarthritis_Causes_Diagnosis_Symptoms_Treatment.htm
  • http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoarthritis



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