What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the world. It also goes by the labels degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis. Arthritis is defined as any inflammation of the joints that are chronic and progressive, leading to incapacitation and deformity. Although the name suggests so, OA is not an inflammatory disease, since it is more concerned with the degradation of joints. This mechanical abnormality involves processes that lead to loss of cartilage, a translucent, elastic tissue that protects bone surfaces. When the cartilage becomes less efficient, the bone may be damaged.
Osteoarthritis and Glutathione
For further reading on the study of glutathione levels in patients with osteoarthritis then read this article.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by joint pain, stiffness, locking, and sometimes, the flowing out of blood, clinically known as effusion. Occasionally, the affected joints are filled with fluid. The most common joint affected is the knee, along with the hands, spine, feet, and the weight bearing joints, such as the hips. However, theory suggests that any joint can be affected. Overtime, the affected parts appear larger, become more stiff and painful, feel better with gentle use but becomes worse with excessive usage. Hard bony enlargements, called Heberden’s nodes, usually form at the smaller joints, like the fingers. They are not always painful, but they do limit movement. Some people start noticing the physical changes before feeling the pain brought by the disability.
What causes Osteoarthritis?
Studies have stated that the cause of osteoarthritis is damage sustained from mechanical stress that render the joints unable to sufficiently self-repair. Sources include, but are not limited to, misalignment of bones on various causes, excessive body weight, and impairment of peripheral nerves. It should be noted that exercise, even without injury, does not increase the risk of developing the disability, nor does cracking of the knuckles. Diagnosis is based on history and clinical examination, with certainty improved by the use of X-ray. Some changes seen upon the use of X-ray are increased bone formation around the affected joint and joint space narrowing.
To manage osteoarthritis, lifestyle modification is needed. For overweight people, it is crucial that they lose weight to make the pain less worse. Moderate exercises can also help, and should be done at least three times a week. Other methods are functional, gait, and balance training to improve position sense, balance, and strength in individuals who have lower extremity of the disability. However, there is little evidence as to the efficiency of manual and massage therapy, and to the combination of both. Knee braces can be used. For pain management, heat compress can be used to relieve stiffness, and cold compress for pain and muscle spasms. If the pain is too much, analgesics are recommended, and acetaminophen is added if pain relief is not enough. Alternative medicines are dietary supplements. Some are glucosamine sulfate, but shows little benefit, and glucosamine hydrochloride, which shows none. Studies show that their efficiency are equal or slightly better than placebo. The use of glucosamine is based on the idea that it is a precursor for a substance that is a major component of cartilage.
In the worst case scenario where therapies and medicines are no longer effective, joint arthroplasty surgery or joint replacement is recommended, especially if the joints involved are the hips and knees.