Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Perspective

It is the most common form of degenerative joint disease and is the leading cause of disability in people over 50 years.

It can be a debilitating form of arthritis since it affects the joints that support the load, especially the hips and knees, which are crucial for normal movement.

A joint is where two bones meet. The ends of these bones are covered with a protective tissue called cartilage. With osteoarthritis, this cartilage breaks down, causing the bones inside the joint to rub. This can cause pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

Osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in older people, although it can occur in adults of any age. Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease, degenerative arthritis, and arthritis from attrition.

It is one of the leading causes of disability; for example, osteoarthritis affects more than 30 million men and women in the United States.

Some relevant data on osteoarthritis are the following:

  • One in two adults will develop symptoms of knee osteoarthritis at some time in their life.
  • One in four adults will have signs of hip osteoarthritis at 85 years of age.
  • One in every twelve adults aged 60 or older has osteoarthritis of the hands.

Causes of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is caused by joint damage. This damage can accumulate over time, so age is one of the leading causes of joint damage that leads to osteoarthritis. The older you are, the more wear you’ve had on your joints.


Other causes of joint damage include injuries, such as:

  • Torn cartilage.
  • Dislocated joints.
  • Ligamentous injuries

They also include joint malformation, obesity, and poor posture. Certain risk factors, such as family history and sex, increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis and cartilage

Cartilage is a complex, elastic substance that is flexible and softer than bone. Your job is to protect the ends of the bones within a joint and allow them to move quickly against each other.

When the cartilage breaks, these bony surfaces become rough. This can cause pain within the joint and irritation in the surrounding tissues. Damaged cartilage can not be repaired alone. This is because the cartilage does not contain any blood vessels.

When the cartilage wears out completely, the cushion it provides disappears, allowing the bone to contact another bone. This can cause severe pain and other symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint. However, the most commonly affected areas of the body include:

  • Hands.
  • Fingertips.
  • Knees.
  • Hips
  • Spine, typically in the neck or lower back.

The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain.
  • Sensitivity (discomfort when pressing the area with the fingers).
  • Rigidity.
  • Inflammation.

As osteoarthritis becomes more advanced, its pain may become more intense. Over time, swelling of the joint and the surrounding area may also occur.

Severe osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition with five stages, from 0 to 4. The first stage (0) represents a typical joint. Stage 4 represents severe osteoarthritis. Not everyone who has osteoarthritis will progress to stage 4. The condition often stabilizes well before reaching this stage.

People with severe osteoarthritis have an extensive or complete loss of cartilage in one or more joints. The friction of bone on bone associated with this can cause severe symptoms such as:

Increased swelling and inflammation: the amount of synovial fluid within the joint may increase. Usually, this fluid helps reduce friction during movement.

However, in larger quantities, it can cause inflammation of the joints. Fragments of broken cartilage can also float inside the synovial fluid, increasing pain and swelling.

Increased pain: You may feel pain during activities and when you are at rest. You may feel an increase in your pain level as the day progresses or more swelling in your joints if you have used them a lot during the day.

Decreased range of motion: You may not be able to move too due to stiffness or pain in your joints. This can make it harder to enjoy everyday activities that used to be easy.

Joint instability: your joints may become less stable. For example, if you have severe osteoarthritis in your knees, you may experience a blockage (lack of sudden movement). You may also experience buckling (when the knee is damaged), which can cause falls and injuries.

Other symptoms: As the joint continues to weaken, muscle weakness, bone spurs, and joint deformities may also occur.

Joint damage caused by severe osteoarthritis is not reversible, but treatment can help reduce symptoms.

Osteoarthritis vs. rheumatoid arthritis

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) share the same symptoms, but they are very different. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that increases in severity over time. RA, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder.

People with RA have immune systems that confuse the soft lining around the joints with a threat to the body, which causes it to attack that area.

This soft lining, which includes the synovial fluid, is called the synovium. As the immune system launches its attack, fluid builds up inside the joint, causing stiffness, pain, swelling, and inflammation.

If you are not sure what type of arthritis you have, the best option is to talk to your doctor. But you can also do your research.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is often a slow-developing disease that can be difficult to diagnose until it begins to cause painful or debilitating symptoms. Early osteoarthritis is usually diagnosed after an accident or other incident that causes a fracture that requires an x-ray.

In addition to x-rays, your doctor may use an MRI scan to diagnose osteoarthritis. This imaging test uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create bones and soft tissue images.

Other diagnostic tests include a blood test to rule out other conditions that cause joint pain, such as RA. Fluid analysis can also be used to determine whether gout or infection is the underlying cause of the inflammation.

Treatment for osteoarthritis

The treatment of osteoarthritis focuses on the management of symptoms. The treatment that will most help you will be primarily determined by the severity of your symptoms and their location.

Frequently, changes in lifestyle, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies will be enough to relieve pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Home treatments and lifestyle changes for osteoarthritis include:


Physical activity strengthens the muscles around the joints and can help relieve stiffness. Try at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical movement every two days.

Choose soft, low-impact activities, such as walking or swimming. Tai Chi and yoga can also improve joint flexibility and help control pain.


Being overweight can put pressure on the joints and cause pain. Reducing excess weight helps relieve this pressure and reduces pain. A healthy weight can also reduce the risk of other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Adequate sleep

Resting muscles can reduce swelling and inflammation. Be nice to yourself and do not exaggerate. Getting enough sleep at night can also help you manage pain more effectively.

Heat and cold therapy

You can experiment with heat or cold therapy to relieve muscle pain and stiffness. Apply a cold or hot compress on sore joints for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.

These practices can help relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Exercises for osteoarthritis

Gentle stretching exercises can benefit people with osteoarthritis, especially if they have stiffness or pain in their knees, hips, or back. Stretching can help improve mobility and range of motion.

As with any exercise plan, check with your doctor before you begin to ensure it is the right course of action for you.

Medications for osteoarthritis

There are several different types of medications for osteoarthritis that can help relieve pain or swelling. They include:

  • Oral analgesics: such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) and other analgesics reduce pain but not swelling.
  • Topical analgesics: these OTC products are available in the form of creams, gels, and patches. They help numb the joint area and can provide pain relief, especially for mild arthritis pain.
  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): NSAIDs such as Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve ( naproxen ) reduce swelling and pain.
  • Cymbalta: your doctor may prescribe the antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine) to be off the label to help provide pain relief from osteoarthritis.
  • Corticosteroids: these prescription medications are available orally. They can also be administered by injection directly into a joint.

Natural treatments for osteoarthritis

Alternative treatments and supplements can help relieve symptoms such as inflammation and pain in the joints. Some supplements or herbs that can help include:

Other alternative treatment options include:

Other remedies can vary from taking salt baths to hot or cold compresses.

It would help if you talked with your doctor about the herbs or supplements you consider before using them. This will help ensure they are safe and effective and will not interfere with other medications you are taking.

Diet for osteoarthritis

Healthy eating has no problem, but diet and nutrition are essential if you have osteoarthritis.

First, you’ll want to keep your weight in a normal range to reduce unnecessary pressure on your joints.

Research suggests that some types of osteoarthritis, such as osteoarthritis of the knee, respond positively to a diet rich in flavonoids, which are nutrients found in fruits and vegetables.

In addition, the antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables can also help fight free radicals produced by inflammation. Free radicals are molecules that can cause cell damage.

A high-quality diet can help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms by reducing inflammation and swelling. Eating foods rich in the following can be very beneficial:

  • Vitamin C.
  • Vitamina D.
  • Betacarotene.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids.

Increasing the intake of foods with anti-inflammatory properties will also help.

Types of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in your hands

Osteoarthritis can affect one or several areas of your hands. These areas often include the tips of the fingers, the middle knuckle of each finger, the joint that connects the thumb and wrist, and the wrist itself.

The joints that are affected to a large extent determine the symptoms. These symptoms often include:

  • Rigidity.
  • Pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Redness.
  • Weakness.
  • Problems are moving the fingers.
  • Reduced range of movement
  • Crunchy sound when you move your fingers.
  • Issues to hold or hold objects.

Women are more likely to have osteoarthritis of the hand than men and usually acquire it at a younger age.

Osteoarthritis of the hands can have a significant impact on your ability to perform the tasks associated with daily life. However, treatments that range from changes in lifestyle to surgery can help.

Osteoarthritis in your hips

Osteoarthritis can occur in one or both hips. In this way, it differs from RA, which usually occurs in both hips simultaneously.

Osteoarthritis of the hips is a slowly degenerative condition. Many people discover that they can combat their symptoms for many years through medication, exercise, and physical therapy. The supports, like the canes, can also help.

If the condition worsens, steroid injections, other medications, or surgery can help relieve it. Alternative therapies can also help, and new technologies are on the horizon.

Osteoarthritis in your knees

Like hip osteoarthritis, knee osteoarthritis can occur in one or both knees. Age, genetics, and knee injury may play a role in knee osteoarthritis.

Athletes who focus solely on a sport that creates extensive and repetitive movement, such as running or playing tennis, may be at greater risk of osteoarthritis.

Similarly, if you pursue only one type of physical activity, this can overuse some muscles and waste others, causing weakness and instability in the knee joint.

Varying your activities helps to work different muscle groups, which allows all the muscles around the knee to be strengthened.

Treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee depends on the stage of the condition.

Knee joint for osteoarthritis: using an orthopedic device around the knee can be an excellent non-surgical treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee.

The brakes can reduce swelling and pressure. They can also increase stability in the knee by moving the weight away from the damaged part of the knee. This allows greater mobility.

There are several types of knee pads. Some may be customized for you, and others are available without a prescription. Your doctor may recommend that you try different orthotics for different activities.

Cervical osteoarthritis

Cervical osteoarthritis is also known as neck osteoarthritis or as cervical spondylosis. It is an age-related condition that affects more than 85 percent of people over 60. It happens in both men and women.

The cervical spine is found in the neck and contains facet joints. These joints help maintain flexibility in the spine, allowing a full range of motion. When the cartilage around the facet joints begins to wear out, cervical osteoarthritis occurs.

Cervical osteoarthritis does not always cause symptoms. If it does, the symptoms can vary from mild to severe and include:

  • Pain in the scapula, arm, or fingers.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Rigidity in his neck.
  • Headache, mainly in the back of the head.
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs.

Occasionally, more severe symptoms may appear, such as loss of bladder or bowel control or loss of balance.

Spinal osteoarthritis

If you have back pain, you may have spinal osteoarthritis. This condition affects the facet joints located in the lower back and buttocks. Traumas of age and spine are both potential factors in spinal osteoarthritis.

Women are more likely than men to get this condition. People who are overweight or whose jobs require squats and sit-ups may also be at greater risk.

The symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis can vary in severity. They include:

  • Rigidity or sensitivity in the joints of the back.
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs.
  • Reduced range of movement

It is essential to pay attention to these symptoms. Spinal osteoarthritis can worsen and cause more severe symptoms and disability if left untreated.

Prevention of osteoarthritis

You may have risk factors for osteoarthritis that you can not control, such as heredity, age, and sex. But other risk factors can be controlled, and its administration can help reduce the risk of suffering osteoarthritis.

The following tips can help you manage the risk factors under your control:

  • Take care of your body: if you are an athlete or an avid athlete, make sure you take care of your body. Use sports supports and shoes that reduce the impact on the knees. Also, be sure to vary your sports so that all your muscles exercise, not just the same forces.
  • Take care of your weight: keep your body mass index (BMI) in the appropriate range for your height and sex.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: eat a variety of healthy foods, focusing on fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Get plenty of rest: give your body ample opportunities to rest and sleep.

If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar level can also help manage your risk of osteoarthritis.

Perspective of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease with no cure, but the outlook is positive with treatment. Do not ignore the symptoms of chronic joint pain and stiffness. The sooner you talk to your doctor, the sooner you can receive a diagnosis, start treatment and improve your quality of life.

Synonym of osteoarthritis

  • Arthrosis