Osteoarthritis is a disease due to wear and aging joints. It is characterized by pain, stiffness and limitation in the use of the joints. It affects most of the joints but especially the joints most subjected to stress over the years, i.e. the hips , knees and spine , and can also affect the joints of the hands and feet.
What is osteoarthritis?
It is a degenerative pathology , caused by the deterioration of the cartilage that lines the surfaces of the bone heads that are located inside some joints. Cartilage is a type of connective support tissue characterized by resistance and elasticity and able to reduce the friction between the bone heads inside the joints; when it becomes damaged it becomes more rigid and more easily damaged. In arthrosis, pain is caused not only by the deterioration of the cartilage but also by secondary inflammation of the tendons and ligaments present in the joint. In severe cases the bones can come to rub.
What are the causes of osteoarthritis?
L ‘ Osteoarthritis is a disease due to wear and aging joints.
There are several factors that predispose to its development, we mention among others:
- familiarity ;
- overweight and obesity, because excess weight mainly damages the hip, knee and foot joints;
- fractures and joint injuries ;
- some jobs that require forced positions or the continuous use of some joints;
- the practice of some sports (in football, for example, premature wear of the cartilage of the feet and knees);
- circulatory diseases that cause damage to the joints (such as hemophilia and avascular osteonecrosis);
- some forms of arthritis (gout, pseudo gout or rheumatoid arthritis ) that damage the joint and make it more susceptible to cartilage damage.
This is why we speak of primitive and secondary forms. What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
The symptoms that most commonly characterize osteoarthritis are, in general, pain , stiffness and limitation in movements at the level of the affected joint. Initially, the pain is felt more after exercise or when loading weight on the diseased joint; it is more intense in the evening and lessens with rest. Many patients at the beginning of a movement made with the diseased joint perceive a failure of the joint itself and claim to hear a particular noise, known as a joint “rush”. Before the age of fifty, osteoarthritis affects men and women equally. After the age of fifty, it mostly affects postmenopausal female patients.
At the level of the hands , osteoarthritis manifests itself in a very specific way: with the “Heberden nodules” , deformations affecting the distal interphalangeal joints of the fingers and with the “Bouchard nodules” , which develop at the level of the proximal joints of the fingers. Both types of nodules can be painful when they form and also cause a limitation of movements.
Osteoarthritis of the spine can lead to the formation of osteophytes that come out of the vertebrae, irritating some nerves and therefore causing pain, tingling and numbness in some areas of the body.
To make the diagnosis of osteoarthritis, the doctor usually makes use of:
- a medical examination , during which an evaluation of the state of health of the joints and of the symptomatology reported by the patient;
- radiological investigations , which may highlight a reduction in the space between the joints, alterations of the bone profile, the formation of osteophytes or injuries of the joints ;
- other imaging techniques ( MRI , CT , ultrasound ) to answer questions or prepare for orthopedic surgery.
There is no definitive treatment for this pathology. You can try to stop its evolution or delay it with pharmacological interventions and lifestyle correction.
The medical therapy, which is mainly conducted, is based on the administration of painkillers with the aim of limiting pain and allowing joint movement. When osteoarthritis involves a specific joint, infiltrations with hyaluronic acid can be carried out. The use of corticosteroids is limited to special cases.
In severe cases, when all these treatments are not effective, the patient can undergo orthopedic treatment possibly with positioning of joint prostheses.
The rheumatology of Humanitas Mater Domini carries out medical check-ups for osteoarthritis patients and in Mater Domini there are also dedicated surgeries to carry out eco-guided infiltrations of the hip and infiltrations at the level of the joint sites such as shoulders, hands, knees, using hyaluronic acid or corticosteroids depending on the specific indication. A Physiotherapy Clinic is also active