Understanding the Nature and Burden of Osteoarthritis

Sometimes known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is now a global health concern. Millions are struggling with some form of osteoarthritis. OA affects the joints, especially the knees, lower back, neck, and hips, as well as small joints such as those in the fingers and the toe.

Most joints, the major ones, in particular, have a rubbery material known as the cartilage. The cartilage serves as a form of shock absorber in the joints that provides a soft gliding surface. If you are interested in understanding what causes osteoarthritis, it is caused by wear and tear of the cartilage, causing pain and movement problems. Over time, OA is bound to worsen, and this result is more pain and joint damage.

Who Is Affected?

Everyone is at risk of OA at some point. However, this condition is prevalent in people older than 65. Besides increasing age, other risk factors such as joint injuries, joint overuse, weak thigh muscles, and obesity also play a significant part as far as susceptibility to this condition is concerned. Why should you be worried about osteoarthritis anyway? Here are some statistics or clinical observations that paint a worrying picture.

  • One in two adults is at risk of developing osteoarthritis at some in their lifetime.
  • One in four adults is at risk of developing hip osteoarthritis by the age of 80
  • One in 12 people over 60 years have some form of osteoarthritis

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Symptoms of OA vary, depending on the affected joints and the severity of the condition. However, unusual stiffness in the morning or after resting is a common symptom in most types of OA. In some cases, affected joints tend to swell. Here is a classification of symptoms based on the affected area.

  • Hips – Feeling pain in the groin area, buttocks, or the inside of the thigh or knee.
  • Knee – A “scrapping” sensation is felt when moving.
  • Feet – An Unusual tenderness and pain at the large bone bellow the base of the big toe.
  • Fingers – Spurs at the joints, causing the fingers to become swollen and tender. In some cases, there might be pain near the base of the thumb.

The Burden of OA

Besides niggling pains that limit an individual’s range of movement, OA has far-reaching effects. Knee and hip OA lead to sedentary lifestyles, and this promotes obesity. Being overweight can lead to the development of life-threatening lifestyle ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. This makes patients with OA at risk of mortality than the rest of the population.

Besides mortality, OA also poses an economic burden. Spending on medication or the need for joint replacement can be quite costly. Indirect costs such as lost time from employment or the need to hire a caregiver also form a considerable chunk of the economic burden.

As the aging population increases, health professionals should find ways of lessening the burden caused by osteoporosis.

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