Osteoarthritis: the symptoms and treatment

Everyone sometimes suffers from painful knees, hips or hands. In most cases, the pain is short-lived and disappears on its own. If the pain in the knee, hip or hand is prolonged, in some cases there may be osteoarthritis. What exactly is osteoarthritis? How does osteoarthritis develop? What are the symptoms and how can osteoarthritis be treated? You can read the answers to all these questions below.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a disease of the cartilage in the joints. Your joints allow you to move. So you can reach out an arm and bend your knee. A joint is usually formed from two bones. The articular cartilage is around the end of those bones. This is the smooth covering of the bone. With osteoarthritis, more articular cartilage is broken down than can be produced by your body. This will eventually cause your bone ends to rub against each other. Your bone tries to repair the damage itself by growing thicker. Bony, pointed growths called osteophytes then form at the edge of the joint. The rubbing of the bones and osteophytes against each other causes chronic pain in the joint. The pain is chronic because osteoarthritis is a progressive condition. This means that osteoarthritis will not go away and that the pain will get worse over time.

How does osteoarthritis develop?

Osteoarthritis is most common in the joints of the hip, knees, hands, neck and lower back. Many people think that osteoarthritis always involves wear and tear and therefore only occurs in older people. This is not correct. You can also suffer from osteoarthritis at a younger age. However, the chance of developing osteoarthritis increases as you get older. Osteoarthritis can have several causes. For example, predisposition could play a role. Osteoarthritis is more common in some families. Osteoarthritis can also be caused by long-term heavy strain, obesity, too much or too strenuous exercise, inflammation or an accident in which the joints are damaged.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  • Pain in the joints. The pain mainly occurs with movement and gets worse over time
  • Pain after a period of rest
  • More difficult to move the joint
  • Stiffness of the joint
  • The joint loses strength and stability
  • Swelling in the joint
  • Change in body position


How can osteoarthritis be treated?

For osteoarthritis, the doctor can prescribe various medications. For example, simple painkillers may be prescribed, such as paracetamol. If this does not reduce the pain sufficiently, anti-inflammatory painkillers can be prescribed, such as ibuprofen or diclofenac. Sometimes these painkillers come in the form of a cream. Injections can also be administered. These usually provide relief for a longer period of time. If the joint is very badly affected and the pain is very severe, it is possible to undergo surgery for a number of joints. The joint is then replaced with an artificial joint. This usually happens at the hip and knee.

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