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Millions of people worldwide are affected by Osteoarthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis, and occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones is worn out. The disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis develop slowly and worsen over time and may include: Pain during or after movement, Stiffness most noticeable upon awakening or after being inactive, Tenderness – when you apply light pressure to or near it. Loss of flexibility of your joint through its full range of motion, Grating sensation popping or crackling, when you use the joint, Bone spurs- extra bits of bone can form around the affected joint, Joint Instability and Swelling due to soft tissue inflammation around the joint.

Causes: Osteoarthritis is caused by joint damage over time, due to ageing. Other causes may be torn cartilage, dislocated joints, ligament injuries, joint malformation, obesity, and poor posture. Certain risk factors like family history and gender increase your risk of osteoarthritis.

Stages: OA is a progressive condition with five stages, from 0 to 4. The first stage (0) represents a normal joint. Stage 4 represents severe OA. People with severe OA have extensive or complete loss of cartilage in one or more joints. The joint damage caused by severe OA isn’t reversible, but treatment by an experienced orthopaedic like Dr Arunava Lala can help reduce symptoms.

Diagnosis: Your doctor may use an X ray and/or a MRI scan to diagnose OA. Other diagnostic tests include a blood test to rule out other conditions that cause joint pain, such as RA. A joint fluid analysis can also be used to determine whether gout or infection is the underlying cause of inflammation.

Treatment: OA is a chronic condition that doesn’t have a 100% cure, but with treatment, the outlook is positive. The type of treatment depends on the location and severity of symptoms. In initial stages, Lifestyle changes, pain killers, topical analgesics like creams/gels, exercise, losing weight to reduce extra load off the joints, adequate sleep and heat and cold therapy may provide relief. In more severe cases, your orthopedic may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSADs) to reduce swelling as well as pain, antidepressants or Corticosteroids in oral form or by injection directly into a joint.

OA Diet: There are no specific dietary requirements in OA, but a diet high in flavonoids and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables helps reduce inflammation and swelling. Increasing your intake of foods with anti-inflammatory properties and high in the following can be highly beneficial:
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin D
• Beta-carotene
• Omega-3 fatty acids

Osteoarthritis in the hands

Women are more prone to Osteoarthritis in the hand than men, and usually get it at a younger age. OA can affect one or several areas of the hands including the wrist itself, the middle knuckle of each finger, the tips of the fingers and the joint connecting the thumb and the wrist. Symptoms often include stiffness, pain, swelling, redness, weakness, trouble moving the fingers, reduced range of motion, crunching sound during finger movement and trouble gripping or holding onto objects. This condition can impact on day-to-day living by affecting the ability to do the tasks associated with the hands. However, experienced orthopaedic surgeons can suggest treatments ranging from lifestyle changes to surgery which can help immensely to improve the condition.

Osteoarthritis in the hips:

Hip OA is a slow degenerative condition which can occur in one or both hips. Symptoms of hip OA include:

• Pain in the groin or thigh that radiates out to the buttocks or knee.
• Stiffness in the morning or after resting or standing.
• Pain after physical activity.
• Stiffness in the joint, or difficulty walking and bending.
• Sticking, locking, or grinding of the hip joint.
• Decline in range of motion.
• Potential limp.
• Increased pain during wet weather.

It is possible to combat the symptoms by using medication, supports, such as canes, exercise and physical therapy. If the condition worsens, orthopaedics may prescribe steroid injections, other medications, or surgery.

Osteoarthritis in the knees

Knee OA can occur in one or both knees due to age, genetics, and knee injury. Any physical activity or sport that creates extensive, repetitive motion, such as running or tennis, may overuse some muscles and underuse others, causing weakness and instability in the knee joint. This may lead to OA over a period of time. An excellent nonsurgical treatment for knee OA is wearing a brace around the knee. Braces can reduce swelling and pressure, increase stability in the knee by shifting body weight away from the damaged part of the knee and allows for greater mobility. Ask your orthopaedic to recommend one that’s best suited for you.

Cervical Osteoarthritis

Cervical OA or neck OA or cervical spondylosis is an age-related condition that affects more than 85 percent of men and women over the age of 60. It happens when the cartilage around the facet joints that helps to maintain flexibility in the spine starts to wear away. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include pain in the shoulder blade, arm, or in the fingers, muscle weakness, stiffness in the neck, headache mostly in the back of the head and tingling or numbness down the arms or legs. More serious symptoms such as loss of bladder or bowel control, or loss of balance may also occur.

Spinal osteoarthritis

This condition affects the facet joints located in the lower back and buttocks. Women are more likely than men to get spinal OA. Age, spine trauma, excess body weight, poor posture or regular squatting and sitting, may also increase the risk of OA. Spinal OA’s symptoms include:

• Back pain that is deep in the muscles.
• Increased pain when sitting or standing upright, and reduced pain while lying down.
• Lower back pain that is worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
• Stiffness and limited motion in the spine.

OA of the toe

Pain and stiffness in the toe joints may be due to OA which will develop over time. Symptoms of toe OA include pain when moving the toe, pain that gets worse after physical activity, difficulty walking, tenderness, swelling, warmth, or redness on the joint and decreased range of motion. OA in the toe, foot, or ankle can impair mobility and in severe cases, the patient may become immobilized.

Osteoarthritis prevention

Though risk factors for OA like heredity, age, and gender cannot be controlled, others can be managed to help reduce your risk of OA. The following tips can help manage the risk factors under your control:

• Support your body: Wear athletic supports and shoes that reduce impact on your knees, vary your sports and activities so that all of your muscles get a workout, not just the same muscles every time.
• Watch your weight: Maintain a healthy weight to ease pressure on your joints.
• Eat healthy: include a range of healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruits.
• Get enough rest: Give your body ample opportunities to rest and to sleep.
• Control your blood Sugar: If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar can also help manage your risk of OA.

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