There are approximately 10 million people in the UK currently suffering from one of the various kinds of arthritis. 9 million of these suffer from osteoarthritis.
Children, adults, and elderly people all suffer from the condition, which causes inflammation and pain in joints.
There are dozens of different types of arthritis, each with particular symptoms and causes, but the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
This article will examine the symptoms, causes, and possible ways that osteoarthritis can be treated.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are stiffness in the joints and pain, which may or may not come and go in episodes.
While it can affect any part of the body, osteoarthritis is most common in the knees, hands, and hips. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Tender joints
- Feeling weak
- Limited movement
- Grating/cracking feeling when you move your joints
- Feeling stiffer or in more pain after staying still for a length of time
Likewise, different symptoms can occur depending on which part of the body has arthritis.
For example, if someone suffers from osteoarthritis in the knee, then they may find that their knee will sporadically ‘give way’ or otherwise be difficult to straighten out.
People with it in the hip will find motions like getting in or out of a car difficult, whereas people with osteoarthritis in the hands will find their fingers bending slightly or being difficult to move.
Cysts are also a possible symptom when osteoarthritis develops in the hands.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis doesn’t have a specific known cause. However, there are various factors that seem to increase the risk of developing the condition. These are:
- Age - Older people are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than young people (most commonly in the 40+ age range)
- Obesity - the heavier someone is, the more pressure is put on their joints, which can cause particular strain on weight-supporting joints like the knees and hips
- Family history - whilst no gene has been identified as being responsible for osteoarthritis, people who have family members with osteoarthritis seem to be more at risk of developing the condition
- Joint injuries- if a joint has been injured and isn't left enough time to fully heal before being used strenuously, there is a higher chance of it developing osteoarthritis
- Other conditions- if joints have been weakened by another condition (such as rheumatoid arthritis), then osteoarthritis is more likely to develop.
So far, we have not developed a cure for osteoarthritis. Most treatment plans involve preventing the condition from worsening and dealing with symptoms. Osteoarthritis isn’t necessarily going to worsen over time, and its symptoms can even improve given the right treatment options.
Are there any treatments for osteoarthritis?
To combat mild symptoms, simple steps like regular exercise, losing weight (if obesity is identified as a possible cause), wearing better fitting footwear, or the implementation of certain therapeutic devices are prescribed. More severe symptoms will typically see a course of strong painkillers. In addition, a qualified physiotherapist will sometimes give care through a structured exercise programme. If these treatments don’t help (which is only true for a very small number of cases), surgery to strengthen, repair, or replace damaged joints can be utilised.
Arthritis is one of many conditions that carers will need to understand in order to effectively care for their patients. Our Care Essentials course page includes training that covers a number of age-related conditions and care plans. These also cover dementia awareness training, patient handling training and duty of care training to help care workers apply theory to work based situations.