Osteoarthritis damages the cartilage coating that protects bones in a joint; the disease causes the usually smooth cushion to thin out and to roughen. As a consequence, pain can be felt in the joint. The charity Versus Arthritis have identified six risk factors for developing osteoarthritis.
Firstly, the condition usually starts from the late 40s onwards, which can be attributed to the following reasons:
- Weakning muscles
- Weight gain
- Reduced healing capacity
Secondly, a person’s sex tends to play a role, as osteoarthritis is more common and severe in females.
Thirdly, obesity can put extra pressure on weight-bearing joints such as the knee and hip, which are most commonly affected by osteoarthritis.
Fourthly, a major injury or operation on a joint can increase the chances of developing osteoarthritis.
“Very hard, repetitive activity or physically demanding jobs can increase your risk,” Versus Arthritis warned.
When osteoarthritis attacks the smooth cartilage, making it become thin and rough, other changes can happen in the joint too.
There may be more fluid in the joint area, causing the joint to swell, and tissue surrounding the joint may stretch so much that the joint become less stable.
In response to the thinning cartilage, extra pieces of bone – known as osteophytes – might begin to grow.
These bony growths can restrict movement in the joint and rub against other tissue.
For others less fortunate, even a small amount of damage in the joints can lead to lots of painful symptoms and mobility issues.
Symptoms of the condition include:
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Mobility issues
There’s no blood test to diagnose arthritis, so a GP will rely on the symptoms you report and a physical examination.
The physical examination will check for joint tenderness, grating of the joints, swelling, excess fluid, restricted movement and joint instability.