Osteoarthritis, which is a form of arthritis, is the most common chronic joint condition. Nearly 34 percent of all adults over the age of 65 suffer from some form of osteoarthritis, and the rate has been climbing steadily since 1990. Knee osteoarthritis, in particular, is one of the five leading causes of disability among adults.
However, despite the prevalence of osteoarthritis, it is something of a mystery for many people; not the least reason being that it is a degenerative disease, and there is no cure. Below we highlight six key things you should know about osteoarthritis since there is a very good chance that it will impact you or a family member if it has not done so already.
1. Injuries from your youth can come back to haunt you
If you experienced a serious knee injury in your youth, then, unfortunately, you are six times more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee joint by your 65th birthday. If the injury was to your hip, then you’re three times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the hip region.
2. Extra weight can be crushing
Carrying excess weight is one of the leading causes of osteoarthritis. Furthermore, excess fat tissue can increase the number of inflammatory chemicals, which in turn can damage joints. That’s the bad news. The good news is that dropping just 10 points can significantly reduce your risk. Eliminating sugar-loaded energy drinks and using more natural supplements could be a step in the right direction!
3. Genetics may be a factor
While it’s not very well understood at the moment, there is a genetic component to osteoarthritis. That means if your parents or grandparents had or have osteoarthritis, then you could be at greater risk of developing it, too.
4. Gender inequality prevails
Women are at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis than men. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that men are 36 percent less likely than women to develop osteoarthritis in their hip regions, and 45 percent less likely than women to develop osteoarthritis in their knees.
5. Leg length imbalance is a risk factor
If one of your legs is shorter than the other (this is called an asymmetrical skeletal system), then you may be at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis.
6. While there is no cure, there are many forms of treatment
In addition to pain relief medications such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and naproxen, there are many forms of treatment for osteoarthritis that can help control symptoms and reduce the rate of degeneration. These treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, motion exercises (e.g. leg lifts, leg rotations, etc.), hot and cold therapies, joint surgery, strength training, and the use of assistive devices such as canes, walkers, splints and orthotics.
The Bottom Line
While osteoarthritis is common and if left untreated it can be quite painful; it is nothing to fear. As noted above, many forms of pain relief and treatment are available. Consult with an orthopedic doctor to get the clear and complete answers, information and advice you need — and deserve.