What is osteoarthritis (OA)?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the world. You may have heard OA referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. When OA begins to affect one of your joints, a series of reactions take place that actually begin to degrade your once-healthy bone and the “soft tissue” around the joint – tendons and cartilage. Once the cartilage that normally cushions and protects the bones of the joint breaks down, the bones of your joint eventually rub directly against each other. Your body reacts to this by creating bone spurs and the joint capsule itself may thicken and weaken. Inflammation eventually sets in.
Doctors talk about two kinds of OA. Primary OA often refers to “everyday wear”; Secondary OA is considered the result of a malaligned joint, being overweight, injury or overuse.
What are the symptoms of OA?
Although some people who have osteoarthritis say they feel no pain, most people who have OA experience pain, feel joint stiffness (especially in the morning), show signs of swelling and tenderness in one or more joints and may even hear a crunching sound in their joints. For some people, OA can become completely debilitating.
In order to diagnose you properly, your doctor will consider your symptoms and your medical history, examine your joint(s) and order one or more diagnostic tests. Your doctor may order blood work, X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI to get a clear view of the alignment of your painful joint and its condition.
How is OA treated?
Your doctor may recommend different treatment options depending on the severity of your osteoarthritis and its impact on your joint(s).