Arthritis is a term that is defined as inflammation of a joint and used to describe over 100 different conditions that can affect the human body. Arthritis affects millions of Americans each year with symptoms including pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of motion in affected joints.
As joint cartilage wears away, the bones begin to make painful bone-on-bone contact. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain. The early stages of osteoarthritis can be treated with a variety of conservative, non-surgical treatments. However, as the joint cartilage continues to wear away and the symptoms of osteoarthritis become more severe, the increased pain and limited movement can affect many everyday activities such as walking, driving, and sitting. Surgery may be recommended to correct the damaged bone and cartilage.
To diagnose your condition, an orthopedic surgeon will observe your movement and review your health history. An x-ray of the affected joint will show signs of cartilage wear, and the severity of the cartilage destruction can help determine the best course of treatment.
Often the cause of arthritis is unknown, but may develop as a result of injury to the joint, excess body weight, or years of wear and tear on the joint cartilage. There is no known cure. The best that doctors can do for patients is to restore motion and reduce pain. Fortunately, partial and total joint replacements have generally proven quite effective at accomplishing these goals.
The joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis are the knees, hips, fingers, and shoulders. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include, but are not limited to:
- Joint pain while standing or moving
- Giving out or locking of joint
- Near constant pain
- Decreased activity
- Abnormal stance or walk