An Overview of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder that damages cartilage and bone, and is primarily found in older individuals who need to seek treatment from an orthopedist. However, younger individuals are also diagnosed, and studies indicate that these patients have an inherited tendency toward this disease or have injured an affected joint previously.

Approximately 20 percent of females and 10 percent of males over the age of 60 are diagnosed with osteoarthritis each year. In addition, about 2 percent of the individuals who receive a diagnosis of osteoarthritis will become disabled.

Symptoms Associated with Osteoarthritis

There is an assortment of symptoms with osteoarthritis, and each patient has different symptoms that can include:

• Stiffness in the joints – especially after sleeping or sitting
• Joint swelling – visible in the fingers, toes or knees
• Pain in the joints – discomfort in the affected joints
• Muscle weakness – especially in the back or legs
• Decreased range of motion – inability to lift an arm or grasp an object

An individual with osteoarthritis will typically feel more pain in the morning due to lack of movement at night. The pain occurs in the affected joints but will also radiate into the surrounding tendons and muscles. Some individuals experience muscle spasms or contractions while trying to use a hand that has fingers that are affected by osteoarthritis.

A patient with osteoarthritis in the toes may begin to have difficulty walking or wearing shoes because bunions develop. Alternatively, an individual with osteoarthritis in the hands is likely to develop Bouchard’s nodes at the upper finger joints and Heberden’s nodes at the fingertips. When osteoarthritis is in the knees, a build-up of fluid is common, leading to additional discomfort and immobility.

Which Joints Are Affected?

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body but is most commonly diagnosed in the:

• Hips
• Knees
• Spine
• Feet
• Hands

In some cases, there is mild to severe deformity in the joints that have osteoarthritis, and an orthopedist is frequently able to make repairs with a surgical procedure. It is possible to notice these deformities in some individuals who have the condition in their fingers or toes, but some deformities are only recognizable on medical images such as X-rays.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Repetitive stress, age and heredity are contributing factors for developing osteoarthritis, but conditions such as obesity and diabetes also increase the risk of developing this joint disorder. A lack of mobility along with pain is the main reason that a patient with osteoarthritis might visit an orthopedic doctor for treatment.