Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease condition of our joints (like knee joint, hip joint etc), commonly manifests in the knee joints.
First, we will take a look in the word ‘Osteoarthritis’ itself- osteo ( i.e. bone ) + arthritis (i.e. joint inflammation causing pain). Number of people affected with osteoarthritis are unfortunately too high. Only in USA 27 million people are affected by the disease (link).
Why is this disease called degenerative joint disease?
This disease is called degenerative joint disease since the cartilage (cartilages are the cushions present at the end of the bones) of joints degenerate and the bones at a joint come closer and might get rubbed against each other and cause pain. At times bone fragments might be found between two bones in the joint and also contribute to the pain.
How does this disease present?
The disease generally presents with pain at the affected joint area and also might be accompanied with swelling of the joint. The pain interestingly increases with activity and decreases with rest. Hence in the early morning the pain might not be that severe since you are resting in the night during your sleep. Affected individuals can get certain deviation of their legs too.
What is the cause of the disease?
Exact causes are yet to be discovered although relation to family history and previous history of joint injury seems to be associated with the disease.
How can we prevent this disease from occurring?
Probably we can’t. But certain things might help us coping with the disease like keeping an optimum body weight, avoiding joint trauma, exercising regularly (choosing right type of exercise might need an experts help) etc.
What are the treatment options?
Since it’s incurable all efforts are focused to ease the symptoms like pain and disability.
For pain symptoms pain-killers are advised but long-term use of pain medication might have its own negative consequences. Exercising to keep the muscles healthy are also a good choice to decrease the pain but doing it during the pain episodes is probably not wise.
If pain medication doesn’t help final option is generally a knee joint replacement (artificial joint is placed in place of the real one).
For good heart health some motion exercises that increases the heart rate (like running, fast walking) are needed. However, it’s generally difficult for osteoarthritis of knee sufferers to do fast running or walking, bicycling and swimming are good alternatives for them. Bicycling and swimming probably don’t harm the knee-joint directly like jumping running etc.
Why body weight is so important in osteoarthritis of Knee?
Since our knees directly or indirectly carries most of our body weight and increase in body weight can contribute to further damage of the knee joint.