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Osteoarthritis: The Most Common of All Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, is estimated to affect 17 million people in the United States. Often confused with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis usually affects people over the age of 40. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which strikes the smaller joints, osteoarthritis involves the larger weight-bearing joints. People with osteoarthritis usually have pain in the lower back, hips and knees. This pain is worse toward the latter part of the day and after activity.

Osteoarthritis is believed to be caused by genetic factors coupled with years of wear and tear to the joint. The result is a defect in the joint cartilage producing the disease. Once the diagnosis is established, a proper treatment program can be initiated. Often a multi-disciplinary approach is required. Such an approach may include anti-inflammatory medications, regular special exercises, a balanced diet, physical therapy, and instruction in joint protection.

Analgesic (pain) medications such as acetaminophen can be useful in the treatment of the minor pain and discomfort of osteoarthritis. The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are often used to reduced both the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. One problem with these medications have been the gastrointestinal (stomach) side-effects and many patients found that they were not able to tolerate these drugs.

The recent development of an "artificial joint fluid" which can be injected directly into the knee has helped many patients who were not able to take medications. The three medications now available for patients are called Synvisc, Hyalgan and Supartz. Recent studies have shown that these naturally occurring substances significantly reduce the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee when compared to oral medications.

These various modalities are usually able to control the pain and disability associated with osteoarthritis.

 

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All medications have potential side effects, risks and interactions with other medications as well as over the counter drugs. Not all medications are right for all patients. You should always check with your physician or health care provider prior to the use of any medication.

 

© 2015, The Arthritis Institute of Long Island, NY