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What You Should Know About Osteoarthritis

By Author: Ashley Sotelo
Total Articles: 10

Physical activities such as walking, running, or playing may not be too strenuous for you; at least not if you are still young and have no aching joints to worry about. It is a different story for those who are already advanced in years, however. For them, every step may require more than the usual amount of effort; every step is a painful activity. What has happened?

It is when we are already older that our bodies begin to feel the effect of our lifestyles when we were younger. Diseases begin to appear, and our organs gradually deteriorate, leading to many medical conditions and complications.
A common disorder among the aged is osteoarthritis. Statistics shows that some 27 million Americans have this disease. Although osteoarthritis is most common among those in their 60s and above, some people in their 20s and 30s also acquire this due to overuse of joints or joint injuries.

What is osteoarthritis? How do doctors diagnose it? What treatments are available?

Osteoarthritis—the Cause and the Symptoms

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis—a medical condition that occurs due to an inflammation of one's joints. Osteoarthritis attacks the cartilage in joints and can affect almost any joint in the body. Most often, osteoarthritis affects the cartilage in the spine, hips, and knees, and can also affect the thumb, fingers, large toe, and neck.

How does that occur?

First, we need to understand what role our cartilage plays in our bodies. The cartilage consists of a firm yet flexible material that coats the ends of our bones. It mainly functions to reduce friction in our joints and act as a shock absorber of some sort. When osteoarthritis sets in, however, the normally flexible cartilage becomes stiff—increasing its susceptibility to wear and tear. As the cartilage gradually deteriorates, so does its ability to reduce friction and absorb shock. The individual's ligaments and tendons stretch, causing the patient pain. In severe cases of osteoarthritis, the bones of the individual may rub against each other.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include severe joint pain that worsens when you move, stiffness after you take a rest, swelling of your joints and enlarged bones in the joints of your fingers. These symptoms do not occur all at once but can appear gradually.

Risk Factors

There are various factors that contribute to the condition of osteoarthritis, as the paragraphs below will explain.

1. Genetics

Individuals who have joint abnormalities or spine abnormalities since birth are most likely going to develop osteoarthritis over time. Individuals who have defective genes for making cartilage are also at a high risk for osteoarthritis

2. Obesity

Your weight determines how healthy your cartilage is. Those who are obese are most likely to develop osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, or spine.

3. Injuries

Sustaining an injury in any of your bones and joints may lead to osteoarthritis in the affected area. For instance, athletes who have sustained a knee injury are most likely to develop osteoarthritis in that part of the body.

4. Overuse of joints

Overusing your joints can lead to osteoarthritis in that area of your body. For example, if you frequently bend your knees, you are most likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee.

5. Other medical conditions

Individuals who have too much iron in their bloodstream, as well as excessive levels of growth hormones, are likely to develop osteoarthritis. At risk too are individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis.

How can you prevent yourself from osteoarthritis? The best way would be to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals essential for cartilage building. Some have found taking garlic pills beneficial in strengthening their cartilage and lowering their risk of developing osteoarthritis. Another way for you to avoid osteoarthritis is by seeing your doctor regularly, especially if you are already in your 60s. Regular check-up routines will help your doctor to diagnose and treat your body condition.

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