Ronald W. Smith, M.D.

Osteoarthritis

arthritis2I.      Definition:  Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis.  It characterized by inflammation and the wearing away of cartilage around the joints, commonly in the feet and ankles.   It causes pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints, oftentimes making it difficult to walk or stand.  The pain and swelling typically worsen while standing or walking, or with changes in the weather. The stiffness often occurs after periods of rest.

II.      Cause:   Osteoarthritis is commonly caused by injuries or excessive wear and tear on the joints.  When the cartilage breaks down, the bones have no cushion and begin to rub against each other.  This causes pain and inflammation.  Studies show that osteoarthritis has hereditary links, signifying that the susceptibility to cartilage breakdown may be genetic.

III.      Treatment and Prevention:  Currently, the only known form of prevention is to avoid injury and excessive wear and tear on the joints.  Once osteoarthritis develops, there are a number of treatments used to ease the pain, inflammation, and joint immobility.

•    Special footwear, including shoes with an extra-wide toe box, arch supports, or, orthotic devices, can ease the pain by taking pressure off the affected joint.
•    Exercise is important to maintain strength.  Emphasize low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, stretching, and low-impact aerobics.  Running and jogging may have to be avoided to prevent additional wear and tear on the joints.
•    Resting the affected joints can help with the recovery of inflamed joints and prevent further damage.
•    Maintaining a healthy weight is important to avoid placing excess strain on the affected joints.
•    Hot and cold compresses can be used to easy the symptoms.   Heat typically reduces stiffness, while cold typically relieves pain.
•    Medications such as aspirin, other anti-inflammatory drugs, and other drugs prescribed by your personal physician can ease the pain and inflammation.

You should seek medical advice from an orthopaedic specialist if chronic pain persists for more than 2-3 months.  Surgery may be the recommended treatment for severely arthritic joints.   Surgical procedures may include cleaning out the joint, realigning the joint, fusing the joint, or in rare cases, replacing the joint altogether.
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