Osteoarthritis: A Snapshot

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Osteoarthritis: A Snapshot

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, which is linked to various factors including ageing, gender, injuries, and extreme physical work.

Osteoarthritis: A Snapshot

Prevalence

Globally, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common kind of arthritis affecting nearly 300 million people, causing the articular cartilage layer that cushions bones in the knees, hips, fingers and lower spine region to increasingly degenerate over time. The result is that the bones of the joint rub against each other, further leading to stiffness, severe pain, and loss of range of motion. 

This joint disease is linked to ageing. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), it affects 9.6% of men and 18% of women aged over 60, worldwide. Furthermore, it ranks among the ten most disabling diseases in the developed world. In India, the prevalence of this rheumatic condition is estimated to be 22-39%, with at least 2 out of every 3 people and nearly 1 out of 2 women aged above 65, developing its symptoms. 

Incidence

Studies show that, apart from ageing, genetic makeup, gender, and injuries, or heavy physical work involving significant exertion can put individuals at risk of OA of the hands (hand arthritis). Though a straight-line connection hasn’t been established yet between occupation and hand OA, repetitive and heavy manual labour is considered as a leading risk factor for this joint disease. For instance, WHO reckons that farming for 1 to 9 years increases OA risk 4.5 times; and farming for 10 or more years, raises that to 9.3 times. OA may also run in some families.

OA affects women at higher rates than men. One major reason is that their knee joints tend to be under greater stress since the hip and knee, unlike that of men, align at a curve. Statistics show that women are more likely than men to suffer from osteoarthritis, and three times more likely to undergo knee or hip replacement. Generally speaking, women experience faster bone loss than men, especially when entering menopause, since estrogen dips sharply in this phase. As a result, there is an increased breakdown of bone tissues (osteoclast activity), which in turn, puts women at higher risk of OA than men, even if they are on hormone replacement therapy. 

Incidence

Severity

Severity

OA is typically divided into 4 stages: 0-4, where “0” indicates normal healthy knee free of OA, and “4” is for severe OA. Severe OA patients suffer extreme pain and discomfort because tiny bone outgrowths (bone spurs) often form around the joints, and these tend to rub against other bones. The joint cartilage mostly wears off and there is a reduction in the quantity of the synovial fluid, that otherwise smoothens movement of the joints. Treatments like total knee replacement (arthroplasty) and bone realignment surgery (osteotomy) can help relieve pain in joints.  

It is necessary to always consult your doctor, before making any lifestyle changes or decisions about surgical treatment for OA. 

As per World Health Organization (WHO), Osteoarthritis affects 9.6% of men and 18% of women, over 60 years of age worldwide.

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