Osteoarthritis (Webquest assignment for Anatomy and Physiology)

Mike Garvis

Biol 207  Dr. Franssen


The difference between a normal joint and one diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It affects millions of people all around the world. Arthritis is the inflammation of joints accompanied by pain and swelling. The addition of “Osteo” means that it also pertains to the bone. In this case it is often referred to as the “wear-and-tear arthritis” due to its affect on your bones and joints. (1). OA occurs when the cartilage begins to wear down as time passes. The disorder can damage any joint in your body, but is most prominent in the joints of your hands, neck, lower back, knees, and hips. (3). There are many different factors that may contribute to osteoarthritis. Unfortunately there is no known cure for OA and it gradually worsens.  However, there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disorder, improve function of the joints, and relieve pain. (4).

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. Cartilage is located at the ends of the bones and acts as a cushion allowing easy movements of joints. (3). The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, loss of movement and pain in the joint. Evidence shows that OA dates back all the way to ancient humans. Today, it is estimated that over 27 million Americans have OA. (1). Even with its prolonged existence and frequency of victims, no one has completely figured out the cause or a cure.

Even though the cause is unknown, osteoarthritis is typically just a normal result of aging through wear and tear on a joint. Symptoms of OA usually begin in middle aged adults, but almost everyone shows some symptoms by the age of 70. Before the age of 55, OA tends to occur evenly between men and women. (2). But after that it is more common in women. Old age is the most common reason for developing OA but it can also run in families, be caused by obesity, or injuries. Being overweight can increase the risk of OA in certain areas that the extra weight directly affects such as the knees. Fractures and/or other joint injuries often precede OA later in life. This may include injuries to the ligaments in your joints and cartilages. (3).

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, and loss of movement. (1). Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms and often become worse after exercise or when you put pressure on the joint. Over time your joints will become stiffer and harder to move. Rubbing, grating, or crackling sounds when you move the joint are very common with the loss of movement. Throughout the day the pain may worsen through daily activities, but this can be remedied with rest. In even worse cases, you may still feel pain even as you are resting. Some people that have OA, however, might not even have any symptoms. (2).

There are two ways you can tell if you have Osteoarthritis. One is an x-ray of the affected joint, which will show a loss of the joint space or a wearing down of the ends of the bones. The other, more popular, way to test is just through a physical exam. (2). There is no cure and chances are that it will only get worse, but there are ways that you can control the symptoms and slow down the rate of deterioration. (4). The ways in which you can treat OA are through medications, changes in lifestyle, physical therapy, braces, and surgery. In terms of medication, over-the-counter pain relievers are most commonly used (Tylenol, asprin, ibuprofen, etc.). Staying active and getting exercise helps maintain joint and overall movement. Physical therapy can improve the motion of stiff joints, muscle strength, and a better sense of balance. Massage therapy may also help provide short-term pain relief. Braces and splints can provide support for weak joints, relieving it from some of the stress and preventing it from moving too much. Surgery is used to replace or repair damaged joints. Only in severe cases of OA would you be recommended to get surgery. (2).

Osteoarthritis is the most prominent for of arthritis and currently affects millions. It is a chronic disease that is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage and can damage any joint in the body. Though the cause is unknown, OA usually happens with an increase in age. Pain, stiffness, and loss of movement are all primary symptoms of OA. There are two ways you can test for signs of the disease which are by x-ray or a physical exam. Even though there is no cure for OA, you should not lose hope because there are many ways to treat it by delaying or slowing down the process.

Works Cited:

1) Arthritis Foundation. “Osteoarthritis.” Arthritis Disease Center L Disease Definitions L Arthritis Disease and Related Conditions. Arthritis Foundation, July 2011. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.arthritis.org/disease-center.php?disease_id=32>.

2) Board, A.D.A.M. Editorial. “Causes, Incidence, and Risk Factors.” Osteoarthritis. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Nov. 2011. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001460/>.

3) Medline Plus. “Osteoarthritis: MedlinePlus.” Medline Plus. U.S National Library of Medicine, 6 Mar. 2012. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoarthritis.html>.

4) Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Definition of Osteoarthritis.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/DS00019>.


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