Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 medical conditions that affect the joints. It is a major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia with 3.85 million Australians affected.
Arthritis can vary considerably from mild ‘wear and tear’ in the joints which may present as occasional stiffness, to severe degeneration and pain impacting on day to day activities. Some basic advice from your Doctor or Physiotherapist can make arthritis manageable and allow you to continue with the activities you usually enjoy.
One of the most common forms of arthritis is Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that affects the joints, more commonly weight bearing joints such as knees and hips.
OA causes the cartilage (cushioning that covers the ends of bones) in the joint to break down and become thin. Cartilage cannot heal itself so the damage can be permanent. The ends of the bones become unprotected and ‘rough’ so the joint loses its ability to move smoothly. It mainly affects people over the age of 45, but it can develop in younger people, particularly after an injury to the joint.
The symptoms of OA are generally pain and stiffness of the joints. These symptoms are usually worse after not moving the joint for a while, for example, first thing in the morning.
Treatment for OA includes pain management with pain relief, anti-inflammatory medication and exercises to keep the joint moving and the muscles supporting the joint strong. In severe cases joint replacement surgery may be indicated.
In recent years, scientists have been able to grow cartilage from stem cells in a laboratory. The cells are harvested from healthy cartilage in the same person, grown in a laboratory, and then transplanted into the affected area such as the knee joint. This type of treatment is in its early stages and has its limitations as only a limited number of cells can be generated. The patient has to undergo 2 operations and then complete a strict rehabilitation programme with limited weight-bearing. It can be a treatment option for the right candidate and is usually reserved for younger people.
Let us know if you would like more information on this and other types of arthritis.