Dr. M.J. Bazos,
WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS?
Osteoarthritis (OA), or
degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It most often
affects middle-aged and older people, involving the neck, lower back, knees,
hips and fingers. Nearly 70 percent of people over the age of 70 have x-ray
evidence of the disease, but only half of these people ever develop symptoms. It
may also occur in joints that have suffered previous injury, been subjected to
prolonged heavy use, or damaged by prior infection or inflammatory arthritis.
Patients with OA experience pain and loss of function.
results from degeneration of the joint cartilage. The causes of cartilage loss
are multiple. Some kinds of OA are known to be hereditary, including the common
form that causes enlargement of the knuckles. Current research focuses on this
genetic abnormality as well as new methods studying cells, chemistry and
function of cartilage. These efforts are creating rapid progress in our
understanding of OA. In most people, cartilage breakdown is due to both
mechanical ("wear and tear") effects and biochemical
- OA affects more than 21 million Americans.
- OA is the most common type of arthritis and a
leading cause of disability in the U.S.
- Virtually everyone over the age of 75 is affected
in at least one joint.
- Women are generally affected at a younger age
is suspected when pain develops in the commonly involved joints. It may be
confirmed by a physical examination, x-rays and by ruling out other types of
arthritis. Since it is so common, it may be present simultaneously with other
for OA includes both medication and other treatments that help to relieve pain
and improve joint function. Drug therapy should begin with simple pain relievers
(acetaminophen) and progress to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or
intermittent corticosteroid injections. Recently, several thick liquids that
resemble normal joint fluid have been approved for use by repeated injection in
the knee joints. In addition, there is some evidence suggesting that some
dietary constituents may have a beneficial
effect.Other therapies include patient
education, occupational and physical therapy to restore joint movement and
increase strength and aerobic capacity, reduction of weight on painful joints
and application of heat and cold to relieve pain. Joint surgery to repair or
replace seriously damaged joints may be required to end pain and restore
PHYSICIAN’S ROLE IN THE TREATMENT OF
OAPhysicians are the leaders in OA
treatment and research. Because of the high frequency of the disease, physicians
in all specialties should participate in the care of people with OA. Physicians
serve as educators to patients and as team coordinators when the team approach
to treatment is