What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative condition that affects the entire joint, including bone, cartilage, ligaments, and muscles. It is believed to be the consequence of a joint working extra hard to repair itself, and occurs most frequently in the hips, finger joints, knees, and large toe. OA can develop at any age, but it tends to be more prevalent in those aged over 40 and people who have had joint injuries.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. A firm, slippery tissue, articular cartilage allows our bones to glide over each other with little friction. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, bone will rub on bone.
There are several factors which may increase your risk of osteoarthritis, including:
- Gender – females are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
- Older age – the chance of osteoarthritis increases with age.
- Joint injury – the risk of osteoarthritis is increased in joints that have been injured in an accident or playing sport.
- Being overweight – carrying extra weight contributes to osteoarthritis in several ways. The more you weigh, the greater the risk. Increased weight adds stress to weight-bearing joints, like hips and knees. Also, fat tissue produces proteins that cause harmful inflammation in and around your joints.
- Genetics – some people are predisposed towards developing osteoarthritis.
- Repeated stress on a joint – if your job or sport places repetitive stress on a joint, that joint might eventually develop osteoarthritis.
- Bone deformities – some people are born with malformed joints of defective cartilage.
- Certain metabolic diseases. These include diabetes and hemochromatosis (a condition in which the body has too much iron).
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
The symptoms of OA vary according to the joints affected, and can differ from person to person. Because OA tends to progress slowly, over months and even years, symptoms can worsen over time. The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are:
- Pain and stiffness
- Difficulty moving joints
- Clicking noises when moving a joint
- Grating sensations when moving a joint
- Less joint flexibility than before
These symptoms are usually made worse by activity in the early stages, but can become more constant as the disease progresses. These symptoms can affect your ability to walk, climb stairs or perform other daily activities.
How common is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 1.8 million Australians1. Women are more likely to develop the condition than men – Australian studies show that about 1 in 10 women report having the condition, compared with about 1 in 16 men2. One in 5 Australians over the age of 45, and one in 3 over 75 years, have osteoarthritis 3.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
Your doctor may consider your symptoms and perform a physical examination to confirm or rule out osteoarthritis. Signs of osteoarthritis include:
- Swelling around the joints in your body.
- Damage to the joint cartilage which covers the ends of your bones to allow them to move smoothly.
- Spurs, which is extra bone growing around the edge of a joint.
- Weakness within the ligaments and tendons that hold your joints together, or attach muscles to bones.
Your doctor might also recommend:
- X-rays. Cartilage does not appear on X-ray images, but cartilage loss is shown by a narrowing of the space between the bones in your joint. An X-ray can also show bone spurs around a joint.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of bone and soft tissues, including cartilage. An MRI is not regularly needed to diagnose osteoarthritis but can help provide more information in complex cases.
Lab tests, including:
- Blood tests. Although there is no blood test for osteoarthritis, certain tests can help rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Joint fluid analysis. Fluid is drawn from the affected joint using a needle, and then tested for inflammation to determine whether your pain is caused by gout or an infection rather than osteoarthritis.
Is there a cure for osteoarthritis?
At present, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Treatments work on controlling and managing symptoms (rather than addressing the cause) of osteoarthritis. However, the key active ingredient behind our bone and joint health supplement, OSTEO-restore™, has undergone a robust human trial to assess its efficacy on knee pain in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis. The active ingredient is called EPIITALS®, and is exclusive to Interpath.
What is EPIITALS®?
EPIITALS®, discovered by Interpath, is a proprietary, natural plant seed oil extract high in fatty acids and patented for its unique ability to reduce inflammation and proliferate chondrocytes (the main cells in cartilage) in an inflamed environment. EPIITALS® protects and promotes healthy joints by inhibiting the dangerous overproduction of pro-inflammatory cells responsible for pain, swelling and cartilage degradation in the joints. EPIITALS® also exerts a powerful, unique, and scientifically proven ability to regenerate cartilage cells.
EPIITALS® already powers Interpath’s global natural animal joint health range, 4CYTE™ for Dogs and 4CYTE™ for Horses.
Other Treatments and Therapies for osteoarthritis
Your doctor may need to trial a variety of osteoarthritis treatments and/or therapies before finding one that is right for you. Treatments include:
- A weight loss program, if you are overweight, complemented by an exercise program tailored to your condition and ability.
- Pain management, using medicines.
- Devices, including braces, walking sticks and shoe insoles.
- Joint replacement surgery if your symptoms cannot be controlled.
Therapy options may include:
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can show you exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joint, increase your flexibility and reduce pain.
- Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can help you adapt or learn new ways of performing everyday tasks without putting extra stress on painful joints.
Exercise for Osteoarthritis
Consistent physical activity helps lessen pain, strengthen muscles, maintain joint function, and improve overall health. It is important to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days for your general fitness – you can do this in one session, or break it down into segments.
Activities that are typically good for people with osteoarthritis include walking, swimming, water exercise, low-impact aerobics and riding a bike / exercise bike.
What if exercise hurts?
Try to exercise at times when you are feeling at your best (i.e. experiencing the least pain). That is generally when you are least tired, and when your medicine is having maximum effect.
Keep in mind that it is normal to feel some pain in your muscles when you begin an exercise program, or vary your types of activity.
However, if pain feels unusual, severe or lasts for more than a couple of after you have ceased exercising, it is advisable to change or avoid that activity. Using a cold or heat pack on a sore joint may ease pain and/or swelling.
1 Arthritis Australia (www,arthritisaustralia.com.au)
2 Health Direct (www.healthdirect.gov.au)
3 Health Direct (www.healthdirect.gov.au)