Osteoarthritis

Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is wear and tear affecting cartilage in the joints, causing pain, weakness and stiffness.

About Osteoarthritis 

Over the years, wear and tear affects cartilage in the joints, causing pain, weakness and stiffness. This is known as osteoarthritis (OA). It can affect any joint but is most common in the knees, hip, and spine. It is a degenerative condition and often starts in people over 50-years-old but can affect younger age groups.

Need to know

  • How does osteoarthritis develop? icon plus

    Osteoarthritis develops when the shock absorbing cartilage and related structures in your joints wear away, and is experienced more frequently as people get older. This is because a person's joints wear down naturally over time, after years of use. Obesity and joint injury can exacerbate osteoarthritis. Sometimes conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or pseudogout cause the cartilage to wear away, leading to arthritis. Symptoms of the condition include:

    • Pain — this can become worse when you move your join, weight bear, or at the end of the day
    • Stiffness — your joints may feel stiff especially after rest
    • Swelling — hard of soft swelling of the affected joint.

    Osteoarthritis is diagnosed following a full medical assessment, which includes asking you questions, examining your joints and by performing X-Rays. The doctor will assess your joint for tenderness, creaking or grating sounds (crepitus), excess joint fluid, reduced movement, joint instability and muscle weakness. On the X-rays, the radiologist looks for bony spurs, narrowing spaces between the bones, and bone hardening.

    Most cases of osteoarthritis are treated with physiotherapy, pain killers, activity modification, weight management and exercise. Swimming and cycling are good exercises that can help. Steroid injections can sometimes be used to help relieve symptoms.

    If these measures fail to adequately control symptoms, and there is persistently poor mobility and quality of life then joint replacement surgery may be considered for worn knees, hips, ankles, and shoulders. Here, the worn joint is replaced with an artificial joint to restore mobility and relieve pain. In some circumstances fusion surgery is recommended, but your specialist will discuss the best option for you.

  • How is osteoarthritis diagnosed? icon plus

    Osteoarthritis is often picked up during routine health checks, but you can ask your doctor for a diagnosis if you think you have the condition. The doctor will test your joint for tenderness, creaking or grating sounds (crepitus), bony swelling, excess fluid, reduced movement, joint instability and muscle weakness. They may also recommend x-rays, which show bony spurs or narrowing spaces between bones. MRI scans are also used to show changes in soft tissues such as thinning cartilage, and worn tendons and muscles.
  • After diagnosis icon plus

    Most cases of arthritis are treated with activity modification, changes in diet and exercise. Swimming is a good exercise that can help. Pain killers and steroid injections can help relieve symptoms.

    If these measures do not work, keyhole surgery may be recommended to clear debris in the joint and try to restore mobility. Joint replacement surgery is also available and may be recommended for worn knees, hips, ankles, and shoulders. Here, the worn joint is replaced with an artificial joint to restore mobility and relieve pain. In some circumstances fusion surgery is recommended, but your specialist will discuss the best option for you.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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