Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic degenerative disease that can affect any joint in the body; however, a large portion of diagnosed cases of OA occur in the knees. Other common affected areas of the body include the wrists, hands, hips, lower back and neck. If undiagnosed and not properly treated, OA can greatly debilitate normal joint function in the body.
Several symptoms are attributed to OA development and progression. The most common symptoms include joint stiffness (classically OA is worse at night from weight bearing and rheumatoid arthritis is worse in the AM), decreased joint flexibility, joint inflammation, tenderness to touch, and sharp pain during joint movement. Patients may also suffer from the formation of bone spurs which are hard lumpy bone projections that can form around the OA-affected joint. The sensation of “creaking” or bone-on-bone grating in joints that are affected by OA are another symptom commonly experienced by patients.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of OA therapeutic interventions, an early diagnosis of this disorder is beneficial. However, due to the differing intensities that patients may suffer from OA symptoms, early signs of OA progression sometimes go unnoticed. Some patients may experience significant joint pain, as a sign of OA development while other patients may only experience mild or no apparent symptoms, even though by x-ray and/or MRI, tell-tale signs of significant OA progression exist. A person exhibiting any symptoms and/or OA risk factors, including previous joint injury, age, gender, obesity, or family history, should have an informative conversation with their medical doctor about this disease.