Osteoarthritis: Major Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention Methods
Causes of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis may not happen to everyone, but people with the following factors are at higher risk:
• Obesity (BMI>25)
• Repetitive or excessive impact to joints
• Fractured bones from accidents
• Abnormalities in the joint area
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the early stages may not be noticeable, but patients often feel stiffness in the knee or twisting in the joint from time to time, especially after being stationary or when a joint has been in one position for too long.
- In later stages, the pain gradually becomes more apparent. The disease process can take months or even years.
- In later stages, joint stiffness becomes more frequent and more pronounced, and there may be a squeaking sound, similar to the sound of rubbing sandpaper. At this stage, patients often experience pain, which may be completely different for each patient, such as mild pain, sometimes severe pain, or constant pain. When observed carefully, the pain may be associated with a specific activity, such as vigorous exercise, climbing stairs, sitting or squatting, and it is often observed that the severity of pain improves when these activities are reduced. Some patients may feel pain relocating or increasing in a particular area of the joint to other parts of the body.
- The pain that occurs leads some patients to adjust their movements by not extending or fully flexing the knee joint over time, which causes joint stiffness and dislocation of the knee flexion.
- Some patients with osteoarthritis may experience swelling and warmth in the knee, where the skin may become dark red or have bony protrusions in the joint, indicating that the knee joint is enlarged and joint mobility is more restricted. Inflammation in large, weight-bearing joints can make it difficult for the patient to walk underweight because of the pain.
How do I know if it's Osteoarthritis?
Visiting a doctor for a physical exam, as well as a radiographic examination, can help confirm if you have osteoarthritis.
Abnormalities that occur when it comes to Osteoarthriti
- The surface of the knee joint, which is cartilage, begins to deepen or makes the joint surface uneven, loses its smoothness, lubrication, and glossiness of the cartilage surface, causing joint movement to become stuck, stiff, or make a noise like rubbing sandpaper.
- The weight distribution of the articular surface is abnormal, as some areas carry more weight while others less, causing abnormally overloaded areas, rapid wear, and tingling pain.
- The membranes are irritated by fragments of cartilage within the joint, producing more inflammatory substances and producing more water in the joint, but of poor quality, causing pain, swelling, and warmth in the knee.
- Muscles around the knee joint: Due to the pain and inflammation of the knee joint, the patient uses the diseased leg less, resulting in less strength in the muscles around the knee joint. So when walking underweight, there is more impact on the joint surface.
- Some of the ligaments in the joints begin to sag as a result of the degeneration of that articular cartilage. As the ligaments stretch, the joints sway or become looser, thus causing more abnormal movement, whereby the knee to deteriorate faster.
- Leg axis: As a result of the ligaments sagging and the cartilage surface wearing out, the joint begins to oscillate in a more irregular direction, and when the patient’s weight increases, it encourages the ligaments to sag and makes the legs look more deformed, such as buckling or sagging in the degenerative knee. The body will gradually build up bone growth within the joint to help the bone around the knee joint to adjust to the more stable movement, which can lead to less flexion movement and thinner bone density in and around the joint, as most patients begin to walk less.
How to prevent Osteoarthritis
It is important to note that in order to slow down the onset of osteoarthritis of the knee, only patients with mild or moderate severity are able to perform these treatments with satisfactory results as follows:
- Avoid extreme knee bending positions (squatting, cross-legged and kneeling).
- Avoid frequent going up and down stairs.
- Control your body weight, avoid obesity.
- Always work hard on the muscles around the knee joint, especially the muscles in the front of the thigh.
- Take arthritis medication when needed or occasionally.
- In cases where the joint is deformed and/or shows more swing than normal when travelling, or performing longer activities than usual, a spring-loaded knee brace should be worn on both the inside and outside of the knee joint.
- In those with frequent knee pain or poor balance, a cane should be used to help when walking long distances or walking in uneven terrain (the walking stick should be held in the opposite hand of the sore knee).
“When osteoarthritis enters the final stage, the most effective treatment is knee replacement surgery, as it allows patients to recover from the pain and resume their daily lives.”
Written by Prof. Aree Tanavalee, M.D.
Knee and Hip Joint Surgeon Hip and Knee Arthroplasty BNH Shoulder & Joint Centre
FAQ by medical professionals
Experiences from patients
Medical team information
Osteoarthritis of the Knee Screening Package (Knee X-Ray) by BNH Hospital 1,690 THB
- Overweight (BMI >25)
- Aged 40 and above
- Family history of osteoarthritis
- Have regular routines or activities that involve the knee joints
- History of knee injuries
- Bent knees
- Knee pain