Are You At Risk Of Osteoarthritis?

Do you have stiffness, tenderness or swelling in one or more of your joints? Do you hear a grinding noise when a joint is being used? Have you lost range of motion in any of your joints? You may have osteoarthritis.

A leading cause of disability, osteoarthritis (also known as OA) is a painful joint disease that primarily affects middle age to elderly people. In fact, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and can occur together with other types of arthritis, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

Lori Sloane, MD

Unlike other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints, not internal organs

OA is a disease of the entire joint, involving the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments and bone. The joints most commonly affected are the hands, spine, hips, knees and big toes. Although there is no cure for this chronic disease, there are many effective ways to treat the symptoms.

7 risk factors for osteoarthritis: do any of them apply to you?

If so, please come see us at Westchester Health so we can evaluate your condition and begin treatment immediately.

  1. Joint injury or overuse. Injury (often from playing sports) or overuse (such as knee bending or repetitive stress on a joint) can damage a joint and increase the risk of osteoarthritis in that joint. Even injuries that occurred many years ago and had seemingly healed can increase your risk of osteoarthritis.
  2. Age. The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age.
  3. Gender. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men, especially after age 50.
  4. Obesity. Extra weight puts more stress on your joints, particularly weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. The more you weigh, the greater your risk of developing osteoarthritis. In addition, fat tissue may produce inflammatory chemicals that can contribute to OA of the hands.
  5. Genetics. People who have family members with osteoarthritis are more likely to develop osteoarthritis themselves. In addition, people who have osteoarthritis in one or both hands are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee(s). Other inherited traits may result in slight defects in the way the bones fit together so that cartilage wears away faster than usual.
  6. Race. Some Asian populations have lower risk for osteoarthritis.
  7. Certain occupations. If your job includes tasks that place repetitive stress on a particular joint, that joint may eventually develop osteoarthritis.

Symptoms and warning signs to be aware of

Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. These include:

  • Pain during or after movement, exercise or sports.
  • Your joint feels tender when you apply light pressure to it.
  • Your joint(s) is/are stiff when you wake up in the morning or after you’ve been sitting or driving for a long time.
  • Swelling in one or more joints.
  • Loss of flexibility. You are not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
  • Grating or crunching sensation or sound.You may hear or feel a grating sensation when you use the joint, which is the sound of bone rubbing on bone.
  • Bone spurs.Extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, form around the affected joint.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

There is no cure for OA, so doctors usually treat OA symptoms with a combination of therapies which may include the following:

  • Get physically active. Experts recommend that adults engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or 30 minutes a day for 5 days. Activity can be broken into short periods of 10 minutes or more during the day. Moderate, low impact activities recommended include walking, swimming or biking. Regular physical activity can also reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
  • Lose weight. For people who are overweight or obese, losing weight reduces pressure on joints, particularly weight bearing joints like the hips and knees. Reaching or maintaining a healthy weight can relieve pain, improve function and slow the progression of OA.
  • Start a regular program of physical therapy focusing on muscle strengthening exercises.
  • Take medications, which may include OTC pain relievers and prescription drugs.
  • Use supportive devices such as crutches or canes.
  • If other treatment options have not been effective, surgery might be recommended.

To learn more, we recommend these resources

Worried that you’re at risk of developing osteoarthritis? Come see us.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of OA and want to know your treatment options, or want more information about this disease, please make an appointment with Westchester Health to see your primary care physician who can determine if referral to one of our rheumatologists is appropriate. We’ll examine you, evaluate your symptoms, perhaps perform some tests, then recommend the best course of treatment to hopefully reverse, or at least slow down, this chronic disease so you can increase your range of motion and decrease your pain and stiffness. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

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By Lori Sloane, MD, a Rheumatologist with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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