The joint is a mechanism of movable bone connections. An elastic thin covering of hyaline cartilage covers the articular endings of the bones, which is free of nerve endings and blood vessels. The cartilage works as a shock absorber during motion, relieving pressure on the articulating surfaces of the bones and ensuring smooth sliding relative to each other.
Ligaments and tendons connect the bones of the joints, acting as strong flexible wires that allow movement in the desired directions. The capsule of the joint entirely encloses them. A thin synovial membrane lines the joint capsule, which secretes lubricating fluid into the joint space. The lubricating fluid is a reliable lubricant for the articular ends of the bones and offers nutrients to the hyaline cartilage. The development of degenerative-dystrophic and inflammatory processes in the joint is facilitated by inflammation of the synovial membrane (synovitis) and haemorrhages in the joint cavity (haemarthrosis).
The softening and pitting of the smooth surface of the cartilage is the first notable change induced by osteoarthritis. As arthritis advances, the layer of cartilage that covers the articular surfaces thins out to the point where it is completely destroyed, leaving the ends of the bones exposed. It becomes uncomfortable and difficult to move the joint without a regular sliding surface. Bone outgrowths emerge around the borders of the joint when the cartilage breaks down, as though compensating for the loss of cartilage by expanding the articular surfaces. In arthritis, this is the cause of joint abnormalities (the joint loses its shape).
Joint pain is the first sign that prompts patients to seek medical attention. Patients frequently describe it as "aching" and vaguely localized. The severity of pain varies based on the stage of the disease, ranging from severe, which limits joint mobility, to mild, which occurs only with particular motions. Joint discomfort worsens with activity and improves with rest. Pain develops with minimum activity as osteoarthritis advances, and in severe situations, it can even wake the patient in the middle of the night. Stiffness typically arises after a time of rest, especially in the morning, and after a period of low activity, when it is hard to start moving, and quickly dissipate at the commencement of physical activity.
Joint enlargement occurs when the synovial membrane is irritated, causing more lubricating fluid to be poured into the joint, similar to how your eye produces tears when it is irritated. However, the additional lubricating fluid cannot readily drain from the joint, causing the joint to enlarge. This is especially common in large joints, such as the hip, knee, and spine joints.
The formation of bony outgrowths (called nodes) in the joints of the hand is a rather typical complication of osteoarthritis. They are more common in women and can start as early as the age of 40. Despite the fact that these knots might cause pain in the hand joints, most people continue to use their hands normally. In the early stages, pain can be decreased with the right therapy. Many people with this kind of osteoarthritis never develop major issues in other joints, and other people do not experience pain in these joints.
There are no specific laboratory tests to diagnose osteoarthritis, although testing to rule out other types of arthritis can be performed. There are no inflammatory changes in the clinical blood test with osteoarthritis, unlike other forms of arthritis; the rheumatoid factor, which is present in rheumatoid arthritis, is missing; and there is no increase in the amount of uric acid in the blood serum, which is present in gout.
Your doctor will inquire about any physical stress or injury that may have contributed to your discomfort. The overall examination will be conducted with specific focus paid to the joints that are causing you pain. The use of an X-ray to make a diagnosis is helpful, but it does not foretell how the disease will progress. Thermographic and ultrasonic examinations of the joints can reveal inflammation in the joints and surrounding tissues that isn't visible on an x-ray.
Weight loss, strengthening, medicine, and supportive therapy are the most common treatments for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can be slowed down by maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly. To relieve stiffness and pain symptoms, many doctors will prescribe acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Some individuals benefit from cortisone injections administered by a doctor straight into the afflicted joints. For those with severe osteoarthritis, surgery may be a possibility if early treatments and therapies fail. Joint replacement surgery is a common procedure. The most common joints to be replaced are the hips and knees. Surgical treatment depends on a person's age, activity level, health status, and the severity of their osteoarthritis.