Osteoarthritis: symptoms, prevention and treatment

Statistically, osteoarthritis is the most common disease of the joints and spine. Cartilage is a very resistant substance, with a smooth surface that covers the joints so that their function is perfect.

The deterioration of this cartilage usually starts from the middle of life, even in younger people, altering its surface, thinning, sometimes there are ulcers (chondromalacia) may disappear completely causing the destruction of the joint and the loss of its function.

This whole process can develop over the course of many years, but there are cases in which the evolution is very rapid, especially in load-bearing joints such as knees or hips.

Symptoms

The symptoms depend on the evolutionary moment of the disease, as well as its intensity. Pain is the main symptom, it can be very important in advanced stages even at rest, although it is most common when moving the joint, when walking, etc.

The inflammation usually appears in the crises or in the most evolved phases, even with articular effusions in the big joints (knees or hips) preventing to walk.

Loss of normal joint movement, stiffness and deformity are other common symptoms.

Prevention

As in all diseases, prevention, reducing the risk of onset or delaying its progression should be the main goal. As in most of the processes of the locomotor system, there is a genetic predisposition factor in certain people, those who can develop the disease and in whom the potentiating factors will help to speed up its evolution.

In load-bearing joints, knees and hips, weight facilitates the onset in predisposed persons. Certain professions with constant overloading of certain areas (lumbar region, hips, knees, etc.) can predispose to the appearance of osteoarthritis.

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Treatment

The purpose of the treatment is:

1. improve symptoms, pain, inflammation and mobility.

2. To stop or slow down the progression of the disease.

3. Replacement surgery (prosthesis) when the joint has been destroyed by osteoarthritis.

In the first point, the treatment is based on drugs that help to reduce inflammation and pain; anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics… always taking into account their possible side effects.

In some cases physiotherapy or electrotherapy can locally improve the symptoms, with generally very poor results. Finally, local infiltrations can be used in cases of acute crises and/or joint effusion. In all cases, it is important to maintain an adequate rhythm of life.

The second point is very important, since it is the one that aims to modify the evolution to stabilize the process or slow it down, trying to avoid surgery.

Currently the technique that is giving better results in this regard is the application of growth factors (platelet-rich plasma) provided they are applied at the right time. Our experience goes back more than five years and statistically about 80% of patients have obtained a significant improvement in their symptomatology and, above all, a clear stabilization of the progression of osteoarthritis, especially in cases of the beginning of the picture.

Also in more advanced cases in which the factors may not be indicated, osteoarthritis can respond to intrarticular ozone therapy.

Finally, if the joint has lost all its structure, there remains the reparative or substitutive surgery by means of a total prosthesis.

In summary, as a chronic and progressive disease, today we can change the evolution if we act at the right time.