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Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis or joint condition that mostly affect joints that bear the most weight. So, terms including ‘wear and tear’, degenerative arthritis, or joint disease are often used interchangeably to describe the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
There are two main causes of osteoarthritis: primary and secondary. Primary being the generalized form, is a heterogeneous disease, with multiple causes. It typically concerns the thumbs, fingers, knees, spine, hips, and big toes. Whereas secondary osteoarthritis is mainly caused by a pre-existing joint abnormality.
Additionally, given the cumulative effects of joint damage with time, age is a common risk factor contributing to osteoarthritis. However, not all older adults may develop osteoarthritis or the associated pain with the condition. Additionally, other noted risks for developing the condition may include genetics, diabetes, obesity, increased cholesterol, and decreased estrogen in post-menopausal women.
Osteoarthritis triggers the protective barrier or tissue of the bones called ‘cartilage’ to break down, leading to bone-on-bone contact, that is. the bones within the joints clash. Consequently, the most observed symptoms include joint stiffness, pain and chronic inflammation, reduced range of motion and flexibility, discomfort and tenderness in impacted joints, crepitus or clicking, grating, crackling noises and comparatively painless extra bone lumps or bone spurs.
As aforementioned, osteoarthritis is characterized as a degenerative joint condition that may progress from stages 0 to 4 – 0 being the typical joint, whilst 4 denoting severe osteoarthritis. In a more advanced case of osteoarthritis, joint swelling or extensive cartilage loss may occur in the joint or even surrounding region due to increased pain and inflammation over time.
The treatment for this joint condition depends on managing symptoms, that is, the treatment type is largely dependent on the patient’s symptom severity and the affected area. In some cases, the contributing factors are modifiable, whilst some remain non-modifiable. Ideally, over-the-counter (OTC) oral and topical medications, lifestyle changes (increased physical activity, weight management, or proper sleep), or home remedies (warm or cold compress) should be sufficient to provide the necessary pain relief from common swelling and joint stiffness.
Overall, although often deemed as chronic, the general assessment of the condition suggests osteoarthritis symptoms are both manageable and curable with timely treatment and care, alongside positive lifestyle changes.