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Osteoarthritis FAQs

Arthritis and rheumatism are the most common types of chronic disease in the UK, with arthritis affecting over 9 million people and there are more than 200 kinds of rheumatic diseases.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Arthritic Hands
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Although there is no cure, treatment can be effective and the disease may even settle down after a number of years. Osteoarthritis occurs due to changes in cartilage, which is a strong, smooth surface around bones that allows joints to move easily. This affects how the joints work. There are three main characteristics of the disease:
  • It causes damage to cartilage, making it rough and brittle.
  • It causes inflammation of the tissues around the joints, which is called synovitis.
  • It causes bony growths to develop around the edges of joints. The underlying bone thickens and broadens to reduce the load on the cartilage.
  • This can make the bone look 'knobbly'

"Arthritis affects 9 million people in the UK"

With all of the above combined, the result is a stiff joint that is often inflamed and painful to move. Osteoarthritis develops over time. When the disease process has finished, joints will look knobbly but should be much less painful and you should be able to carry out most everyday tasks.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

The cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but there may be certain triggers in life that can make its development more likely. These can include:
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop Osteoarthritis than men.
  • Age: It is more common the older you get.
  • Obesity: An increased load on the joints can potentially cause more damage, making knee or hip osteoarthritis more likely or more severe.
  • Genetics: There could be some evidence of osteoarthritis running in families in some people.
  • Previous injury, damage or deformity: Fractures, joint infections or existing joint conditions could all contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis?

Symptoms of osteoarthritis can include:
  • Poor mobility of affected joints and problems walking.
  • Joints may look 'knobbly' due to the overgrowth of bone near damaged cartilage.
  • Swelling and inflammation of the affected joint, although this is uncommon so you should tell a doctor if this happens.
  • Pain and stiffness in your joints.
Having said this, there may not necessarily be any obvious symptoms of the condition.

Who Is Affected By Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis mostly affects people over 50 and is more common in women. It is often thought that it is just a part of getting older, but younger people can also be affected, either as a result of an injury or other joint condition. Arthritis can be classed as primary or secondary.
  • Primary: This develops mostly in people over 50 in previously healthy joints. By the age of 65, at least half of all people have Osteoarthritis in some joints.
  • Secondary: This develops in previously abnormal joints, such as injured or deformed joints.

Which Joints Can Be Affected?

Osteoarthritis can affect absolutely any joint, but most often affects the hands (finger and thumb joints), feet, knees, lower spine and hips.

How Can I Manage Osteoarthritis?

There are certain things you can do to manage your condition. You should avoid over-exerting yourself and should never attempt anything that could trigger your symptoms. Learning your limits is important when living with this condition. If your osteoarthritis is particularly bad, you may want to look into occupational therapy. An Occupational Therapists will assess your needs and suggest ways to manage any difficulties you may be having in your daily life. Other general treatments for osteoarthritis may include:
  • Weight Control: If you are overweight, you may be making your symptoms worse as you are putting extra strain on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees and hips.
  • Walking Aids: Using a walking stick can take the pressure off affected joints and ease your symptoms.
  • TENS (trans-cutaneous electrical nerve stimulators) Machines: Can help to ease the pain from osteoarthritis.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise keeps you healthy, strengthens the muscles around joints and maintains a good range of movement.
  • Physiotherapy: Manipulation and stretching around affected joints could be helpful.
  • Hot and Cold packs: These can help to reduce inflammation and soothe the pain.

What Medicines And Supplements Are Available For Treating Osteoarthritis?

Available products to relieve symptoms and pain include:
  • Analgesics (pain killers): The most commonly used pain killer is paracetamol, which can be used alongside codeine. These make the pain more bearable when you are experiencing a flare-up of symptoms.
  • NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): The first NSAID was aspirin, but there are now about 20 types. They are formulated to reduce pain and swelling within a few hours, with noted side-effects including indigestion and possible bleeding from the stomach. They are available over the counter and are one of the quickest ways of relieving pain and inflammation.
  • Steroids: Steroids can be injected directly into the joint for fast relief of pain and inflammation

    We have a range of treatments for Arthritis.

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