Definition of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative form of arthritis.  It is popularly understood as the disease of wear and tear. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis worldwide.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

The underlying pathology is gradual thinning of the hyaline cartilage with subsequent thickening of the underlying bone leading to a cascade of degenerative changes that cause bony outgrowths, swelling of the synovium and further destruction of other structures in the joint capsule. This eventually results in limited joint function and in some cases severe joint deformity.

The etiological factors are based on this degenerative process. They include:

  • Age >40
  • Women
  • Obesity
  • Traumatic injury to the joint
  • Overuse of a particular joint
  • Fall from a standing position or height
  • Prior history of joint disease e.g. rheumatoid arthritis
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Endocrinologic disorders e.g. thyroid disease
  • Developmental dysplasia of joints e.g. Perthe’s disease
  • Infectious diseases e.g. bacterial or viral infections

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The symptoms of osteoarthritis are typically dependent on the degree of degenerative changes occurring in the joint. They can vary from slight discomfort in joint use to severe debilitating arthritis.

  1. Intense pain on movement that gets worse towards the end of the day
  2. Stiffness after prolonged inactivity, lasting less than 30 minutes
  3. Knobby swelling after physical exertion or prolonged use of the joint
  4. Clicking sounds known as ‘crepitus’ heard on joint mobility

Joint involvement in osteoarthritis is not consistent. Small and large joints are equally affected. Osteoarthritis can either be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Some experience one joint (monoarticular) arthritis while others complain of many joints (polyarticular) arthritis. Characteristics of pain also vary from slight discomfort to sharp, intense pain. Most commonly affected joints include:

  • Knee osteoarthritis: It is the most common type of osteoarthritis because the bulk of the whole body rests directly on the knees during ambulation. The pain is typically localized on the front and sides of the joint. Grinding sensation with crepitus is typical in knee osteoarthritis. More common in menopausal women, sports injury and post-surgical removal of destroyed meniscus.
  • Hip osteoarthritis: Deep, intense pain felt especially in the groin, buttocks, hips and sometimes the legs. People with previous hip dysplasia syndromes are prone to this type of arthritis.
  • Hand osteoarthritis: Knobby swelling is more prominent on the joints near the fingernails and those proximal to the palm. The two regional bony outgrowths are known as Herbeden and Bourchard’s nodes respectively. They disfigure the structure of the fingers without causing loss of function.

Treatment of AODS

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, we recommend you to contact Dr. Burke, our orthopedic specialist, who offers a wide range of therapeutic plans that are effective in pain management, disease control and joint reconstruction. These include:

  • Practical medical advice on lifestyle modification e.g. weight loss plan
  • NSAIDs
  • Systemic steroids
  • Local injectable steroids
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Surgery e.g. joint replacement