Osteoarthritis Symptoms & Risk Factors

October 12, 2016 is World Arthritis Day

According to the Canadian Arthritis Society and the Arthritis Foundation, Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive or degenerative disease and is the most common type of arthritis. When the cartilage between joints breaks down (as happens with OA), the resultant pain, stiffness and swelling make it difficult to move the joint.

Who’s affected by OA?

Although men and women of all ages can develop osteoarthritis, it most frequently affects people in their older/mature and senior years, and is more prevalent in women than men.

  • 1 in 2 adults will develop symptoms of knee Osteoarthritis during their lives
  • 1 in 4 adults will develop symptoms of hip OA by the age of 85
  • 1 in 10-12 mature/older adults will have Osteoarthritis

Singer Gloria Gaynor’s mother and grandmother both had OA, and she told Celebrity Health Minute that she began experiencing symptoms of OA herself when she was 46. Gaynor lived with pain in both knees for several years until she agreed to knee replacement surgery on her left knee in 2009.

Among the many people who are living with Osteoarthritis today, are included actress and golfer Cheryl Ladd (Charlie’s Angels), 1976 Olympic gold medal figure skater Dorothy Hamill (neck, hip, and knees), 1976 Olympic gold medal decathalon champion Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner (knees), baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan (knee), Emmy Award-winning dancer-actress Debbie Allen (shoulder), baseball right fielder Hank Aaron (knee), golfer Nancy Lopez (knee), 1984 Olympic gold medal gymnast Bart Conner (elbow, knee), and former New York Jets/LA Rams football player and actor “Broadway” Joe Namath (knees). (Joe Namath Photo: Pinterest)

Joints Most Commonly Affected by Osteoarthritis

The joints most commonly affected by OA are the knees, hips, lower back, neck, small finger joints, the base of the thumb, and big toes, and can commonly manifest in the following ways:

Knees – Grating or scraping feeling / sound

Hips – Pain in the buttocks, groin, and insides of the thighs or knees

Fingers – Swelling, tenderness, or redness of the fingers/joints; pain at the base of the thumb joint

Feet – Swelling in toes, ankles; tenderness and pain in the base of the big toe joint


Osteoarthritis (OA) Symptoms

Joint Stiffness – Aching, pain and/or stiffness in a joint after a period of immobility (ie, upon first waking up in the morning), causing limited range of motion, that goes away after a short period of time once you get moving.

Joint Swelling – Swelling in the joint and a reduction in the joint’s range of motion.

Joint Cracking/Grinding (Crepitus) – The joint may grind, grate or make a clicking, creaking, or crackling sound (or sensation).

Joint Pain – Joint pain is usually worse after you have been using the joint (ie, later in the day), and improves as you rest it. The pain can be wax and wane for most of the day, and may cause discomfort when trying to get to sleep at night. Pain may be triggered by high-impact activities only at the beginning, but as Osteoarthritis disease progresses, the pain may be triggered by ordinary activities, and may be associated with other symptoms, such as locking of the joint.


Osteoarthritis (OA) Risk Factors

Aging – Although symptoms of OA can go undetected for many years, the risk of Osteoarthritis developing increases with age.

Family History/Genetics – If you have other family members with Osteoarthritis, your risks of developing OA are increased.

Weight – Obesity and excess weight put additional stress on joints in the feet, knees, and hips, causing aches and pains, and putting you at increased risk of developing Osteoarthritis and requiring more invasive interventions for joint pain (ie knee surgery). Losing weight will contribute to your overall health and sense of well-being, and even a 10 pound loss can help to reduce strain on joints, relieves pain, and forestall surgery.

Stress & Injury – Joints and surrounding tissues that have been damaged by a previous injury, are more susceptible to developing OA. Repetitive stress on joints and overuse from working with machinery or heavy lifting, construction, etc. may cause joint/tissue injury. Athletes in some sports put extras stress on joints, and even sports injuries that occur in youth, if not properly treated, can increase the risk factor for developing Osteoarthritis later in life.

Identifying OA early and obtaining treatment to control pain and improve the ability to function, will help osteoarthritis sufferers to better manage their disease and stay healthy for as long as possible.

Anita Hamilton

50+ World editor & writer Anita Hamilton's articles are inspired by real historical events, places, and people. Her travel experiences, a lifelong keen interest in history, art, vintage music, books, silent films, classic movies, "golden age" television shows, fashion, & entertainment in general - combined with years of research - make her a subject matter expert with acquired knowledge & expertise on these topics. This, and a loving and supportive family complete with 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.

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