What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs most often in older people. This disease affects the tissue covering the ends of bones in a joint (cartilage). In a person with osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes damaged and worn out causing pain, swelling, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected joint. Although osteoarthritis may affect various joints including hips, knees, hands, and spine, hip joint is most commonly affected. Rarely, the disease may affect the shoulders, wrists and feet.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is characterised by damaged articular cartilage. Advanced age is one of the most common reasons for osteoarthritis. You may also develop osteoarthritis in the following cases

  • If you had a hip or knee injury or fracture in the past
  • If you have family history of osteoarthritis
  • If you are suffering from hip or knee diseases such as
    • Avascular necrosis
    • Other congenital or developmental hip diseases

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The characteristic symptoms and diagnostic test help in diagnosing the condition. You will experience severe pain confined to hip, knee and thighs, morning stiffness and limited range of motion.

Management of Osteoarthritis

There are several treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help you ease your pain and symptoms.

  • Medications: Pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors and opioids may be prescribed. Topical medications such as ointments can be applied over the skin where there is pain. If the pain is very severe, corticosteroid injection can be given directly into the affected joint to ease the pain.
  • Other treatments:
    • Your physiotherapist will teach you exercises to keep your joints flexible and improve muscle strength.
    • Heat/cold therapy, which involves applying heat or cold packs to the joints, provides temporary pain relief.
    • Lifestyle modifications can be done to control weight and avoid extra stress on the weight-bearing joints.
  • Surgery: Joint replacement surgery is considered as an option when the pain is so severe that it affects your ability to carry out normal activities.