As we get older, the protective cartilage between bones wears down. The result of this is osteoarthritis. The condition damages joints, hands, knees, and spine, causing severe pain. If you’re having pain in your joints, you might need to see the doctor. But everyone needs to learn about osteoarthritis prevention, symptoms, and treatment.
What Is Osteoarthritis And How Does It Occur?
Osteoarthritis is a condition whereby the cartilage between bones starts to wear down. It’s caused mostly by natural occurrences. The condition is a common medical issue, especially among people who are 60 years and older. More women suffer from this condition than men in many parts of the world.
At least 80% of people 55 years and above have some evidence of the condition. The World Health Organization projects 130 million global diagnoses by 2050.
As we age, our body tends to lose efficiency in some activities and functions. Some people also live sedentary lifestyles where they are less active. Others get too active and put so much stress on the bones.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
People start experiencing symptoms of osteoarthritis from the age of 40 years. It begins with pain and discomfort in the hands, elbow, wrists, shoulders, and ankles. Joint pain that starts with activities and relief at rest is common. Pain is often felt near the affected area, while severe conditions may occur at night.
There is also joint stiffness in the morning, which goes away after 30 minutes. You may also experience stiffness in joints during cold weather (1). For proper osteoarthritis prevention, there is a need to understand symptoms. That is why everyone must pay attention to what is going on in their bodies.
The Five Stages of Osteoarthritis
Like most medical conditions, osteoarthritis happens in stages. The first is the minor stage, where the person suffers minor discomfort and pain. In the second stage or mild stage, people notice bone spurs. Some patients might need a brace for daily activities. The third stage is the moderate stage, where affected cartilage begins to erode.
Also, patients feel discomfort during activities because of inflammation. By the time the patient reaches the fourth stage, the condition is already out of hand. The severe stage involves lots of pain with the cartilage almost gone (2). Patients will also experience serious inflammation in several joints in the body.
Difference between Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
There are concerns about understanding the difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis. Most people who want osteoarthritis prevention will need to know about the difference.
Arthritis is the general term for describing inflammation in the joints. Osteoarthritis happens to be the most common type of arthritis. It’s also called joint disease to show how serious it can be.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
There are several causes of osteoarthritis and risk factors relating to the condition. The primary cause of osteoarthritis is age. The condition is not very common among people who are 40 years and below. The older you get, the more likely you’re a candidate. Gender is also a risk factor. Women are two to three times more likely to have it than men.
Many people who are obese are also exposed to having osteoarthritis. Excessive weight leads to exert of pressure and stress on the joints. When this continues over time, it can lead to osteoarthritis. Every pound of weight will produce four pounds of pressure on joints and bones. An increase in the cases of osteoarthritis has been attributed to the spike in obesity.
Another factor that leads to osteoarthritis is the type of job. Some jobs make people use a particular joint over and over again. This leads to stress on that joint which causes inflammation and stress that causes pain.
People who suffered a joint injury may also experience pain in their joints, leading to break or tear. After many years without any care, the problem persists and degenerates into osteoarthritis. Your muscles play a vital role in ensuring that you have proper bone alignment. So, people who have weak muscles expose themselves to the condition. That’s why it’s good to engage in exercise that increases your muscle mass. If you can’t do it all the time, you should try it at least once in a while (3).
Certain metabolic diseases that lead to excess iron can also lead to osteoarthritis. Some people may have the tendency to develop conditions based on genetics. Also, those dealing with bone deformities might have symptoms that cause osteoarthritis.
Knowing the best and effective way to ensure osteoarthritis prevention is very important. Make sure you keep a healthy and moderate body weight. Not getting obese is good for so many things, including preventing osteoarthritis.
You also need to control your blood sugar. High blood sugar may trigger osteoarthritis that will lead to pain. If you’re very active, avoid injury to your joints. And if you have injuries, make sure you treat them well before it degenerates.
If you’re not active, get out there and sweat. Living a sedentary lifestyle is one of the quickest ways to get joint inflammation. Try to pay attention to pain whenever it comes. See your doctor and get it checked as fast as possible. The earlier you’re able to diagnose the condition, the better.
It’s good to take steps to ensure osteoarthritis prevention. But when things go wrong, and the pain is too much, you will need to get treatment. Self-care and home remedies can also help. Ice packs, application of menthol, and aerobic exercise is the way to go.
When you start feeling pain, you may take paracetamol to give you relief. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug will also relieve pain, decreases inflammation and reduces fever.
Doctors may also need to prescribe a dietary supplement for you. Some people may need to go for therapy to get relief from the condition. Hydrotherapy, stretching, physical therapy, and acupuncture can be very helpful in this regard.
In the most severe scenario, surgery may be the last option for patients (4). Arthroscopy may be applied to diagnose and treat joint problems. The doctor may also prescribe joint replacement to remove the defective joint and insert a new one.
Image: Getty Images
Sara Leandro is a certified health coach who helps others feel their best through individualized lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals. She covers topics ranging from health and productivity to relationships.