Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Specially older people present this disease, which is also called degenerative joint disease. A joint is the point where two or more bones are connected. With a few exceptions (e.g. in the skull and pelvis), joints are designed to allow movement between the bones and to absorb shock from movements like walking or repetitive motions. These movable joints are made up of the following parts:
Cartilage: A hard but slippery coating on the end of each bone. Cartilage breaks down and turns into osteoarthritis.
Joint capsule: A tough membrane sac that encloses all the bones and other joint parts.
Synovium: A thin membrane inside the joint capsule that secretes synovial fluid.
Synovial fluid: A fluid that lubricates the joint and keeps the cartilage smooth and healthy.
Ligaments, tendons, and muscles: Tissues that surround the bones and joints, and allow the joints to bend and move. Ligaments are tough, cord-like tissues that connect one bone to another.
Tendons: Tough, fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones. Muscles are bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerves, either relax or contract to produce movement.
Although this condition becomes more common with age, younger men and women can develop it too. This can happen generally as a result of a joint injury, a joint malformation, or a genetic defect in joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis is more common in men before age 45. After this age, the illness is more present in women. Besides, people with overweight and whose jobs stress particular joints are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is an illness, which only affects joint functions causing joint pain and stiffness. This condition does not affect skin tissue, lungs, eyes nor blood vessels as it usually happens with some other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Further, osteoarthritis mostly affects cartilage. Cartilage are the hard and slippery tissues that cover the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. The job of a healthy cartilage is twofold: to allow bones to glide over one another and to absorb energy from the shok of the physical movement. When a person has osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks and wears away. This causes pain, swelling and loss of motion of the joint because the bones rub together under the cartilague. Besides, as long as the time passes, the joint may lose its normal shape. Further, osteophytes or bone spurs (small deposits of bone) may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space causing more pain and damage. The most commonly affected joints are those at the ends of the fingers (closest to the nail) such as thumbs, neck, lower back, knees and hips. There are different levels of pain experienced by people living with osteoarthritis. For some people the illness develops quickly but for others it may develop gradually over the years. In the same way, sometimes it aches mildly during the daily routine but in other cases it causes severe pain and even significant disability.
Osteoarthritis and treatment
Treatments against osteoarthritis, which help improving joint function include natural supplements, exercise, weight control, pain relief techniques, healthy diet and in some cases surgery and medications to control pain may be needed in case of severe osteoarthritis. In any case one of the best treatments against this illness is exercising. The type of exercise will depend on which joints are affected and how severe they are damaged. In any case exercise done properly has many benefits for the health: It can improve mood and outlook, it decreases pain, increases flexibility, strengthen the heart and improves blood flow, maintains weight, and promotes general physical fitness. Swimming, water aerobics, bicycling and in some cases walking, are very helpful examples for people with osteoarthritis.