Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis where joints become damaged through every day wear and tear. This damage involves a thinning of your protective cartilage and thickening of the underlying bone, ultimately leading to pain and inflammation.
There is no known cause and osteoarthritis can affect all ages, although it tends to be most common in women aged over 45. Usually symptoms develop over time and their severity and impact will vary for each individual.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis
Here are some of the most typical symptoms that you may experience as a result of osteoarthritis:
- Painful joints, particularly during or just after exercise. In more advanced cases pain can also be experienced during rest and sleep.
- Stiffness following periods of rest, particularly in the morning.
- Inflammation of your joints, causing pain and tenderness. This inflammation is caused by a thickening of your synovium (the lining of your joints) and the creation of extra fluid.
- A grinding, creaking or popping sensation when you move your joints.
- Difficulty moving your joints into certain positions, or in some cases your joints might give way when you put pressure on them.
These symptoms cannot always be attributed to osteoarthritis and it’s always best to seek a formal medical diagnosis before beginning any kind of treatment.
If you are suffering from osteoarthritis you may not experience all of the above, and your symptoms will vary over time. Many individuals find that their symptoms are affected by changes in the weather, getting worse during damp periods. And you may also find that your symptoms are more apparent following exercise.
Treatments for osteoarthritis
If you have been experiencing any of the above osteoarthritis symptoms for more than a few weeks you should make an appointment to see your GP. There are many different types of arthritis and it’s important to diagnose your symptoms correctly to ensure you receive the best possible care.
During your diagnosis your GP will review your symptoms and they may carry out further tests such as x-rays and blood tests. The latter can’t be used to diagnose osteoarthritis but it can help to rule out other types.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your GP may diagnose pain relief or anti-inflammatory drugs. They may also recommend exercise to help strengthen your joints, sometimes under the guidance of a physiotherapist.
Treating osteoarthritis with orthopaedic surgery
If your symptoms are severe and affecting important weight-bearing joints, like your hip or knee, your GP will refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon such as Mr Nirav Shah.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis and if we are unable to manage your discomfort and lack of mobility we may consider arthroscopy or a joint replacement. Both treatments can have a dramatic impact on symptoms and help you to enjoy many years of restored independence.