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  • Writer's pictureValerie Smith, APRN

Diagnosed with Osteoarthritis? Here’s What You Need to Know

The term “arthritis” tends to be a catch-all word describing joint pain or joint disease, but arthritis is far from a catch-all condition.

In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that arthritis impacts 58.5 million people or 24% of adults in the United States, making it the leading cause of work disability that equates to $303.5 billion in annual costs for medical care and lost earnings.

Of the different kinds of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis among the elderly. The National Institute of Aging further states: “Before age 45, osteoarthritis is more common in men than in women. After age 45, osteoarthritis is more common in women.”

  • What is osteoarthritis?

  • Why does it occur?

  • How does it differ from other types of joint diseases?

  • What are the symptoms?

  • How do you treat osteoarthritis?

Let’s discuss the answers to these questions and explore what you need to know if you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Forms of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is often confused with other forms of arthritis.

For example, you’ve probably heard of rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Those diseases are not osteoarthritis. Rather, they are a form of autoimmune inflammatory arthritis.

Maybe you are aware of other arthritic conditions such as infectious arthritis, metabolic arthritis, or gouty arthritis. Once again, those types of arthritis do not fall under osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage surrounding a joint wears down. A joint is where two or more bones come together. The ends of those bones are covered with protective tissues.

With osteoarthritis, those tissues deteriorate. As that cushion of tissue between bones disappears, a patient is left with little to no padding on the end of their bones and the result is bone rubbing on bone.

The Impact of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can cause a myriad of symptoms, such as:

  • Joint pain

  • Joint tenderness

  • Joint swelling

  • Joint redness

  • Joint stiffness

  • Joint immobility

These symptoms are what lead to debilitating pain, limited range of motion, and reduced functionality. In turn, many patients with osteoarthritis experience difficulty completing daily tasks or workplace responsibilities.

The Consequences of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is not an instant or overnight occurrence. Instead, it slowly develops and joints worsen as the condition progresses over time. Unfortunately, this leads to long-term joint damage that is irreversible and permanent.

Osteoarthritis develops for a number of reasons. While age and gender certainly seem to increase a person’s risk of developing osteoarthritis, other contributing factors are:

  • Joint overuse

  • Joint injury

  • Joint/musculoskeletal abnormalities

  • Lack of movement/exercise

  • Excess weight/obesity

  • Poor diet/inflammatory foods

  • Lifestyle choices

  • Genetics

Also, there is no known “cure” for osteoarthritis.

Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis

Treatment plans vary based on the severity of a patient’s osteoarthritis progression. Managing osteoarthritis can include:

Medications: Certain medications are known to help decrease osteoarthritis symptoms. Some patients prefer over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Advil and Motrin, or acetaminophen-based drugs like Tylenol. Medications that require a doctor’s prescription are also an option for some patients.

Therapy: Therapy is an excellent tool to build strength, increase flexibility, improve mobility, and reduce pain. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, or a combination of both might be necessary depending on a patient’s capabilities and needs.

Medical Procedures: Injections and surgery fall under this category. Cortisone injections or lubrication injections are two of the most common injections used to treat osteoarthritis. As far as surgical procedures, joint replacement surgery or a realignment of the bones are two options used when conservative treatments have not worked for severe cases.

Physical Activity: Osteoarthritis patients need movement. Exercise fights off the effects of osteoarthritis. In particular, low-impact exercises (like swimming and biking) are the best form of physical activity for anyone battling osteoarthritis.

Weight Management: Being overweight often contributes to challenges with osteoarthritis. Extra weight puts extra pressure on our joints.

Diet: Healthy food choices not only support proper weight management, but a patient can fight off inflammation brought on by arthritis by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

Osteoarthritis is a challenging condition, but our team here at Paducah Rheumatology is ready to help you feel your best!

We know every patient is unique and different, so we understand the need for customized treatment plans designed that meet the specific symptoms and particular conditions of each one of our patients.

Formulating personalized treatment plans is one of our top priorities, and we will take the time to get to know YOU.

Give us a call 270-408-6100 today! We are accepting new patients with a physician’s referral.

Let’s improve your quality of life as we tackle osteoarthritis together.

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