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What Is Osteoarthritis?
One of the most common afflictions experienced by adults in the industrialized world is osteoarthritis. This disease is an immune system disorder – the body’s white blood cells attack healthy tissue, leading to chronic inflammation around the joints, which often wear down as the body ages. The symptoms include pain, swelling, redness and stiffness. Arthritis is typically associated with the fingers, but these painful symptoms can also affect the knees, restricting the ability of a patient to move and affecting their quality of life.
Fortunately, as our understanding of immune system pathology improves combined with the development of new drugs, medical science now offers several types of treatment for this debilitating condition. While damage to joints cannot be reversed, staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise can be combined with other therapies to significantly improve quality of life.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Anyone can develop osteoarthritis, but the following factors lead to an increased risk of developing the disease:
What Are the Treatment Options?
If you have osteoarthritis, there are several treatment options available. Many of these involve making lifestyle changes, others involve drugs and other therapies:
Complications Caused by Osteoarthritis
Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative condition that gets worse as you get older. Left untreated, osteoarthritis can lead to joint pain so severe it disrupts sleep and, in some cases, contributes to clinical depression. If patients find themselves getting depressed or suicidal, it’s important to seek treatment immediately.
Though osteoarthritis tends to get worse with age, there are many things patients can do to slow its progress and ensure a good quality of life. These include sticking to a regular exercise regime, eating healthy foods and keeping mentally and socially active.
What If Surgery Is Required?
If a patient’s osteoarthritis progresses to the point where the condition interferes with daily functioning, a physician may recommend surgery to replace worn-away cartilage in the knee. These procedures may include cartilage grafting, in which healthy cartilage is taken from elsewhere in the body and transplanted to the affected site, or a synovectomy, which occurs when the lining of the affected joint is removed to reduce inflammation. A medical professional should be consulted before considering surgery.
Recovery from Surgery
As with any type of surgery, a recovery period is necessary before a patient can regain his or her full control over the affected region. Depending on the type of surgery required, a doctor may recommend a physical therapy regimen post-operation to regain strength in the knee and to restore stability and balance. A patient may need to use a knee brace, crutches or a cane for some time after surgery.