Health Question: What is Osteoarthritis?

via The Medical City |

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease. It is chronic and slow-progressing degenerative joint disease. It occurs when the cartilage between the bones break down because of involuntary stress or biochemical alterations, leaving the ends of bones unprotected thus rub together causing pain and limitation of motion.

How does one know if he/she had Osteoarthritis?

Symptoms of OA include:

  • Deep achy joint pain exacerbated by prolonged use
  • Joint stiffness during rest (gelling), may have morning stiffness lasting less than 30 minutes
  • Cracking noise with joint movement and limitation of range of motion

Who are at risk/ what are the risk factors of Osteoarthritis?

The major factors that affect the risk of developing OA include: age, joint location, obesity, genetics, joint malalignment/trauma, and gender.

  • OA is most common in the elderly. It is uncommon before the age of 40.
  • It affects joints such as the spine (cervical, lumbar), hands (interphalangeal joint, thumbs base), and base of the big toe, hips, and knees.
  • Obesity increases stress on weight-bearing joint; it may also change posture, gait, and physical activity which contribute further to compromise the joint.
  • Having family members (especially first degree relatives) with OA
  • Joint malalignment such as unequal leg length, bowlegs or knocked knees
  • Joint trauma/injury or repetitive use/overuse
  • Women are twice as likely men to develop OA, particularly after the age of 50.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed? Who do you consult?

Rheumatologists are doctors who are experts in diagnosing and treating arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. They usually are able to diagnose OA based on patient’s symptoms, history, and physical examination. In some cases, x-rays or imaging studies are done to know the extent of disease; also other tests may be required to rule out other conditions.

How is osteoarthritis managed?

The goal of treatment is to alleviate pain and improve joint function. The management plan is tailored for each patient, which is achieved by a combination of non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic measures, sometimes also surgery.

Non-pharmacologic Treatment

  • Weight loss reduces stress on the joints, thus improving pain and disability.
  • Exercise can improve muscle strength, decreasing joint pain and stiffness.
  • Joint protecting measures entail maintaining good posture and use of support devices such as braces, canes, walkers, and clutches. Such devices assist in activities of daily living and lessen the burden of the joint and protect further damage.
  • Application of heat and cold can also be helpful. Heat is able to relax muscle and relieve pain. Cold treatments can also relieve pain.

Pharmacological/Drug Therapy

  • Topical analgesics are creams, gels, or sprays applied directly on the skin over the affected joint.
  • Paracetamol
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Joint injections with corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid (form of joint lubricant) can give months of pain relief.


Surgery is resorted to when there is significant joint damage that leads to persistent pain and loss of function. Orthopedic surgeons do these procedures, which can involve either repair of damaged tissue or a total joint replacement.

How can The Medical City help you?

At The Medical City, we have a complete roster of competent rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons, and physiatrists who can assess and manage patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

For more information you may contact:

Tel. no. (632) 988-1000 / (632) 988-7000 ext. 6287

Note: This information is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advise, diagnosis or treatment.   If you or someone you know have any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is advisable to seek professional help.


  1. American College of Rheumatology. (2013 February). Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, from /Patients/Diseases_And_Conditions/Systemic_Lupu_Erythematosus_(Lupus)/
  2. Firenstein, G. (2008). Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology (8th Ed.), Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.
  3. Klippel, J. (2008). Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases (13th Ed.). New York: Springer.
  4. Department of Medicine: Section of Rheumatology, The Medical City

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