‘Osteoarthritis'(OA) is one of the most commonly found forms of arthritis which mainly includes degeneration of cartilage, the smooth and slippery tissue which lies in the form of a coating to protect the ends of bones and joints in our body. It helps the bones to move freely against each other. It can also involve the synovial lining (the lining of the joint thickens and produce more fluid than normal). The continuous degeneration of cartilage exposes the nerve endings in bones, thus causing extreme stress on them. Bones become denser eventually resulting in pain.
Below picture makes a comparison between a healthy joint with a proper cartilage cushioning between the bones to the damaged joint structure which is observed in an OA patient.
OA being the talk of the town in recent times, could potentially affect any joint in our body, more likely that bears most of our weight, like the knees and feet and also that we use heavily on daily basis, like the joints of the hands.
Cases such as the extra bones(bone spurs) at the edge of the joint called ‘osteophytes’ which can potentially restrict the movement or rub against the other tissues and the finger joints visible as firm knobby swellings are some examples of OA.
OA is degenerative. Repeated mechanical stress caused by excessive weight, injury or activity is a contributor to the development and progression of this disease. The repair process does not work quite well. If left untreated, OA can lead to complications and can greatly affect one’s quality of life. The person, who suffers from severe OA, will find some of the daily activities more difficult depending on which of the set of joints are affected. Depression and sleep disturbances can result from the pain and disability from OA.
Salient Symptoms of OA:
Symptoms of OA typically vary from person to person sometimes mainly have affects from the kind of work being done regularly by the individual.
However, below listed are the symptoms that are commonly found most of the OA patients.
- Affected joints might hurt during or after the movement.
- Joints stiffness especially after rest, gradually wears off when the person starts moving.
- Inability to move the joint through its full range of motion.
- Might feel a grating sensation when the affected joint is used alongside a popping or crackling sound sometimes.
- Development of extra bit of bones in the form of spurs if any would form hard lumps around the swollen joint area.
- Contrary to the above, in some cases, due to the thickening of the joint lining and extra fluid inside the joint capsule, the swollen joint area might become soft and appear tender.
- Sometimes, the muscles around the joint may look thin or wasted. The joint may give way at times because of the weakened muscles or the less stable joint structure.
Causes and Risk factors of OA
- Age: OA is common amongst people of age 40 and above. As one ages, the body’s muscles weakens due to the wear and tear which continuously occurs throughout an individual’s lifetime. Added to this is the ongoing deterioration of the cartilage cells due to the oxidative stress. If not taken care with proper nutrition, rest and exercise, the damage cannot be repaired. This condition over a period results in the chronic ailment OA.
- Gender: Women have higher chances to develop OA than men
- Obesity: Increased weight adds stress to weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees. In addition, the fat tissue produced proteins could cause harmful inflammation in and around the joints.
- Joint injuries: Injuries such as those which happen while playing sports to from an accident could increase the risk of OA. Even those injuries that occurred many years ago, seemingly healed could increase the risk of OA.
- Joint abnormalities: If an individual is born with malformed joints or defective cartilage or developed them in childhood, it could lead to earlier or more intense OA than usual.
- Genetic factors: One of the potential causes for an individual developing OA is his genes. Certain types of OA are related with a strong genetic component. The mutations in genes affect/s protein called collagen resulting in the early appearance of OA than the usual.
- Other types of joint disease: Sometimes, other joint diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis or gout may also cause OA.
- Weather: OA pain can worsen with the weather mainly when there is a drop in the atmospheric pressure such as that before raining. This is only a risk factor which can hugely affect the symptoms and not a cause of the disease.
- Diet: Some foods have anti-inflammatory capabilities which can help reduce symptoms while some other might amplify the same.
- Metabolic diseases: These include several diseases which mainly diabetes.
The solution which works in the long run:
Articular cartilage covers the ends of our bones, while joints like the knees also have additional cartilage that acts as a cushion between the bones. Cartilage is primarily made up of collagen fibers, glycoproteins, and proteoglycans. The structural integrity of human cartilage is continually going through a cycle of building up and breaking down. In other words, our bodies need to be building cartilage at the same rate as it’s wearing down in order to maintain healthy joints.
Hence the solution for OA which works at the root level will be about bringing in a balance. When a joint begins to wear out, we know that either the breakdown of cartilage has increased, or the production of cartilage has decreased. Therefore, it is extremely important to take a potent, well-balanced antioxidant and mineral supplement. Strong evidence exists that patients who suffer from arthritis are deficient in several antioxidants and supporting nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, boron, silicon, zinc, manganese and others.
Supplying all these antioxidants at optimal levels helps to bring the oxidative stress under control. Reducing blood cholesterol also improves the symptoms of this disease. Diet which includes oily fishes, dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, quality dairy products, virgin olive oils, nuts, garlic, green tea have great healing effects on OA. The earlier one starts addressing the root cause, easier it is to prevent the damage and thereby protect the bones and cartilages.
Weight loss and exercises are quite beneficial in overcoming OA pain. For every 10 pounds of weight an individual loses over 10 years, he or she could reduce the chances of OA by nearly 50 percent. Exercises help improve the muscle strength, decrease joint pain and stiffness and lower the chances of disability due to OA.