Sunday, January 15, 2006

osteoarthritis (arthritis)

Osteoarthritis is a noninflammatory degenerative joint disease occurring chiefly in older people. Five percent of individuals over the age of 50 have clinical symptoms of arthritis. By age 60, 15 percent of men and 25 percent of women have clinical symptoms. Causes are not always known but injury to joints, no matter how minor, may predispose to osteoarthritis. This is perhaps due to irregular pressure. Excessive use of a joint for occupation or sport accelerates local changes. Obesity and familial occurence are also factors. Initial changes occur in the cartilage, which first loses its elasticity and later becomes softened and frayed, losing its ability to cushion the joint. The main symptom is joint pain, which occurs on motion and weight bearing. The pain is characterized as aching and is rarely intense. Decreased range of motion, localized tenderness, and enlargement of the joint are other symptoms. The knees and hips are most commonly affected. Rest is the primary treatment for osteoarthritis.
The use of canes and crutches is helpful when weight-bearing joints are affected. Heat, massage, and isometric exercises are helpful in improving muscle strength around the joint and in preventing atrophy. Analgesics are the usual drug used since agents with greater risks of toxicity are seldom justified because of the need for longterm usage.
Traction and surgery are indicated when severe symptoms are not relieved by other measures. Total joint replacements are usually quite successful and should be considered once a joint has become sufficiently painful or disabling enough to limit the quality of life.
See also ARTHRITIS, RHEUMATOID.
For additional information write or call:
National Arthritis Foundation
1314 Spring Street N.W. #103
Atlanta, GA 30309
1-800-282-7032
Reichel, W. M. Clinical Aspects of Aging. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Co., 1979.

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