Osteoarthritis also known as osteoarthrosis or just arthrosis is a chronic and very common joint disease that is associated with a long-term damage to the joint cartilage.


A number of factors lead to osteoarthritis. Older age is an important one. The longer the damage to the joints happens, the more the process is advanced. An excessive physical load is another causative factor. The load-bearing joints such as the hip joints and knee joints are most frequently affected by the process of osteoarthritis. All bigger joints of the lower limbs bear an excessive overload by overweight and obese people who also tend to suffer from osteoarthritis.


The affected joints may become swollen, stiff and painful. The mobility of the affected joint is reduced. When the patient tries to overcome the pain and stiffness by an exercise, it does not help and only worsens the condition. The patient also usually complains of pain in bones in affected joint vicinity.


It is a quite simple process. Joint cartilage covers joint surfaces of bones and protects them. By the process of osteoarthritis, the layer of cartilage begins to thin, cracklings emerge and the cartilage stops to protect bone surfaces. During a movement of joints the bones start to rub against each other. Their surfaces damage and small pieces of bone can break off into joint space as co called “bone mice”. Such bone pieces irritate the joint and worsen the condition. A long-term irritation of joint bones leads to emergence of bone protuberances that also reduce joint movement.



Scheme of basic symptoms of osteoarthritis



It is essential to avoid joint overstraining. Excessive sporting or too heavy labor may contribute but the real problem is obesity which causes a serious joint damage by an excessive weight overload.


The patient must participate in the treatment. That means to lose weight to stop overloading his joints by an excess of physical activity. It would be of course inappropriate to end doing sports, but it is advisable to choose less joint-straining types of sport like swimming or riding a bicycle.


There exist many types of relief medication. There are anti-inflammatory drugs that in general suppress inflammation processes and feeling of pain. The problem is that such drugs do not cure the cause but "only" relieve the pain. A person taking this medication regularly my lose pain as a defense mechanism and overload the joints more frequently. By a long-term use of the majority of anti-inflammatory drugs there is an increased risk of peptic ulcers development.


The last resort is an orthopedic operation of a total joint replacement. The patient receives an artificial joint. It must be however noted that artificial joints have a limited lifespan and they represent a foreign material inside human body which is always at risk of bacterial infection. A bacterial infection of the joint area during the operation may be a fatal condition.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources