Osteoarthritis often has no symptoms. If they do occur, they usually include pain and stiffness, most severe in the morning, and decreased mobility of the involved joint. Osteoarthritis symptoms may be worse in bad weather. Rarely is there inflammation (redness, warmth, tenderness, swelling). There are no generalized body changes such as weakness, malaise, weight loss, or fever. Osteoarthritis does not affect any organs.
Diagnosis is made by physical examination. X-rays are useful, since osteoarthrjtjs shows characteristic changes in the joints. A blood test called a “sedimentation rate,” which is normal in osteoarthritis but elevated in other forms of arthritis, may be performed. Your regular health care practitioner can usually diagnose and treat osteoarthritis. However, you may also want to consult a rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis.
The goals of osteoarthritis treatment are to maintain and/or improve joint function, relieve symptoms, and prevent further deterioration. Osteoarthritis treatment generally consists of a regular exercise program balanced with rest, weight reduction if overweight, and application of heat to the affected area. Medication may be useful but is less important than other kinds of treatment.
A regular exercise program usually combines some type of regular physical activity walking or swimming seem to be best with special calisthenic exercises to put the affected joint through its full range of motion. Your health care practitioner will prescribe the specific exercises which will be most helpful to you. Exercise helps maintain joint function while making bones and joint supporting ligaments and muscles stronger, helps in weight maintenance or reduction, and aids relaxation.
When starting an exercise program, proceed slowly and gradually and build up your strength and endurance. Severe pain is a signal to stop. Mild pain is not. Listen to your body. Many people find a warm bath or shower, hot washcloths or a heating pad useful before exercise to improve mobility and reduce pain in the affected joints.
The best diet for osteoarthritis is a balanced, nutritious one which maintains health and normal weight. There is no special diet which prevents or cures any form of arthritis. Fad diets or large doses of vitamins, minerals, hormones, or other supplements have not been shown to have any positive effects on arthritis. In addition, they may be dangerous to your health as well as a drain on your pocketbook.
In severe cases of osteoarthritis of a weight bearing joint, surgery may be a treatment option. Total hip replacement and total knee replacement surgery are major advances in the treatment of osteoarthritis with a high success rate and minimal risk for most people.
This surgery usually provides total pain relief and the ability to walk normally and to return to normal activities.Unfortunately, many people think that arthritis signals the end of their ability to have sexual relations. However, sexual activity may actually help relieve arthritis symptoms.