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Ruth asked...

Osteoarthritis

I have recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of both hips and would like to know about the condition, ie how to manage it, pain relief and how it will affect me long term?

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The answer

Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition and commonly occurs within the large joints of the body, the types of places where this can be found are the knees and hips for example. The condition refers to an inflammatory process within the joint and is caused by a thinning of and damage to the cartilage surrounding the joint which leads to inflammation often accompanied by pain and stiffness within the area.

The body does try to repair the damage which occurs , in some cases with limited success, but the types of changes seen during the process such as bone thickening and formation of  bone spurs which often develop alongside thickening and increased quantities of synovial fluid which lubricates the joint can increase the symptoms being experienced.

Treatment of Osteoarthritis  is aimed at both slowing the damage and reducing any pain being experienced usually by use of appropriate medications such as analgesics and medications designed to reduce the inflammatory process within the joint.

Without treatment there is the risk that the disease may progress more rapidly however not everyone will require medication to start with and by keeping active and taking analgesics as necessary they can find the condition does not limit them in their daily lives. However, it is also known to be a progressive disease in some people whereas others will find it less so.

In terms of symptoms the most common type of symptoms experienced by people with Osteoarthritis are stiffness in the affected joints, especially in the mornings, pain, and restricted mobility in the area. It also known to be fluctuating in nature with periods of time when the symptoms are barely noticeable followed by periods of time when it is more apparent. As osteoarthritis tends to affect everyone differently treatment is aimed at an individualised approach to each person.

The common areas of treatment will be use of medications if required, exercise, which is known to be beneficial in keeping the joint moving while strengthening the surrounding muscles, weight loss if it is required and support with coping strategies. In more advanced cases use of walking aids such a a walking stick may be recommended and Surgical replacement of the joint can also be performed where medication and other strategies have not sufficiently reduced the impact of the disease on mobility and day to day activities.  As you have been recently diagnosed you may find it helpful to ask for a referral to see a physiotherapist and /or an orthopaedic consultant to assess your condition  more fully. 

They will be able to assess the impact of the Osteoarthritis on your mobility if any and on any symptoms you may be having and be able to suggest a programme of exercise and possibly medication if you see an orthopaedic consultant to help in addition to performing and recommending suitable pain relieving measures.

Overall there is a significant amount of both information and research into Osteoarthritis available and while the above hopefully has helped to give you some insight into the condtion you may also find it useful to look at the following link : http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/osteoarthritis.aspx

Arthritis UK is a national research charity for this condition and here you will find detailed information covering all of your queries in addition to access to support plus the latest research available. They also produce a wide range of publications which the public can order covering many topics related to Arthritis which you may find very helpful to read as well.

You can also read more about Osteoarthritis here: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoarthritis/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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