Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment Of Osteoarthritis

Every year in May, we observe National Arthritis Awareness month to increase awareness about this common condition that affects approximately one in four adults in the United States. Arthritis comes in various types, and in this interview, Dr. James Westmoreland sheds light on the most common form, osteoarthritis, discussing its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. According to the CDC, osteoarthritis affects over 32.5 million US adults.

Dr. James WestmorelandINTERVIEW
Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist
Dr. James Westmoreland, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he also completed his residency and internship. He has worked with renowned health systems in the area, including HCA, Conroe Medical Center, and the Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Conroe. He is now part of the team of doctors at the EHS clinic in Cleveland, Texas. If you need to schedule an appointment or have questions, you can reach Dr. Westmoreland at 281.592.5411

What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a type of degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions and protects the ends of your bones gradually wears away. It usually develops in middle-aged and older adults, but younger people can also be affected.

What parts of the body does arthritis most commonly affect?
Arthritis can impact any joint in the body, but it’s commonly found in the hips, knees, spine, and hands.

Are there different types of arthritis?
Yes, there are several types of arthritis. There is rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory condition that can cause significant pain and deformity, particularly in the hands. Additionally, there are other types of arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis, but the most common is osteoarthritis.

How to identify the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
Typically, the symptoms of osteoarthritis appear gradually and can range from mild to disabling, with the most common symptoms being pain, stiffness, and swelling. Along with these, you may also experience locking up, popping, or grinding. Usually, the symptoms are more intense in the morning, but they tend to improve with movement. Additionally, certain activities like kneeling or performing strenuous tasks can aggravate the symptoms.

How common is osteoarthritis?
It is very common and mainly affects middle-aged and elderly individuals, although it may also impact younger people.

What are the causes of osteoarthritis?
Several factors can contribute to the development of this condition, such as previous injuries, abnormal joint/limb development, and family history. Additionally, repeated mechanical stress on the joint and obesity can also contribute.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
The diagnosis process involves both a physical exam and a review of the patient’s medical history. We will look for signs of pain, limited motion, or creaking or grinding noises during the examination. Additionally, X-rays will be taken to assess the joint space, looking for signs of narrowing, thinning, or loss of bone and bone spurs.

What is the treatment for osteoarthritis?
To manage osteoarthritis without surgery, options include taking rest or modified activities to prevent pain, using NSAIDs, adopting a weight loss program if necessary, or applying topical analgesics. Steroid injections into the affected joint are also very helpful. Physical therapy is also often recommended to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion and to alleviate pain.

Sometimes, a brace or cane and walker may be necessary.

When is surgery required?
In cases where nonoperative treatments prove ineffective, joint replacement surgery may be recommended, specifically for the hips, knees, or shoulders.

What type of healthcare provider to see in case experiencing joint pain?
If you have joint-related symptoms, you can consult your primary care provider, as a first step. Primary care doctors often refer patients to orthopedic specialists or other specialists for further evaluation and treatment.

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