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Osteoarthritis; Key Q&A.

* What causes osteoarthritis?

In osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of motion of the joint.

* What's the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Osteoarthritis only affects joints, and not internal organs. Rheumatoid arthritis-the second most common form of arthritis-affects other parts of the body besides the joints. It typically begins earlier than osteoarthritis, causes inflammation and may make people feel sick, tired and sometimes feverish, among other symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues.

* Am I at risk for osteoarthritis?

Women are at somewhat higher risk than men and risk increases as you age. If your job or a sport you enjoy carries a high risk of injury, your risk of osteoarthritis is also higher. Being overweight is another risk factor, since extra weight increases stress on weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. Low estrogen levels may also increase risk, although research is not definitive.

* Can I do anything to reduce my risk of developing osteoarthritis?

Losing weight and minimizing injury risks on the job and at play can cut your risk.

* What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The warning signs of osteoarthritis include steady or intermittent pain in a joint, stiffness after getting out of bed, swelling or tenderness in one or more joints, increased pain with activity, a crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone.

* How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

A health care professional will probably take a clinical history, conduct a physical examination and order x-rays. Be prepared to describe pain and other symptoms in detail. Specific descriptive terms-such as throbbing, constant, sharp, intermittent, aching, burning or stinging-are helpful. X-rays and other imaging techniques (such as arthroscopy) can help determine how much joint damage has been done and whether you have cartilage loss, bone damage or bone spurs. However, x-rays may not show early osteoarthritis damage. Various blood tests may also be done, especially if symptoms are more suggestive of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or other forms of inflammatory disease.

* What's the latest on medications used to treat arthritis pain?

In April 2005, the FDA issued a public health advisory that included important changes and additional warnings for nonsteroidal pain relief medications (NSAIDs, including medications known as COX-2 selective inhibitors (Celebrex, Bextra, Vioxx) available only by prescription, as well as for over-the-counter (OTC) NSAID products. In late 2004, the FDA had asked the manufacturer of Vioxx to voluntarily recall its product after several studies associated increased risk of heart attack and stroke with the medication. In April 2005, the FDA asked the manufacturer of Bextra to withdraw this medication because the overall risk versus benefit profile for the drug was also found to be unfavorable. It also requested that the manufacturer include a boxed warning about potential health risks in the label of Celebrex, another one of its COX-2 medications. Manufacturers of both prescription and OTC NSAIDs are being asked to revise their labels to include the same boxed warning highlighting the potential for increased risk of cardiovascular (CV) events and gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding associated with their use. It's important to ask your health care professional for information about these recalls and safety information associated with pain relievers with your personal health history in mind.

* Are there ways of alleviating osteoarthritis pain without medications?

Yes! Weight loss, exercise, physical therapy, stress reduction and biofeedback often help, as do using canes or wearing splints to take the pressure off joints. Warm towels, hot packs or a warm bath can often relieve pain, as can cold packs used after exercise (check with your health care professional before using hot or cold therapies).

* Can I exercise if I have osteoarthritis?

Yes! Research shows that one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis is exercise. This activity can decrease pain, improve mood and outlook, increase flexibility, improve the heart and blood flow, maintain weight and promote general physical fitness. It is also inexpensive and, if done correctly, has few negative side effects. The amount and form of exercise you can do will depend on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has already been done. (Note: Be sure to discuss any plan to start a new exercise program with your health care professional.)

* Should I make changes in my diet if I have osteoarthritis?

If you are overweight, you should discuss a weight-loss plan with a health care professional. Losing weight takes excess stress off weight-bearing joints and can limit further injury. Progression of the disease also appears to be less in patients with high levels of vitamin C, D or E and beta carotene intake, although more studies are needed to confirm these reports.

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Marcus DM, Suarez-Almazor ME. "Is there a role for ginger in the treatment of osteoarthritis?" Arthritis & Rheumatism. Vol. 44, Issue 11, 2001. Pgs: 2461-2462.

Moseley JB, O'Malley K, Petersen NJ, et al. A controlled trial of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee. N Engl J Med. 2002; 347:81-88.

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Editorial Staff of the National Women's Health Resource Center 2002/02/01 2005/04/14 There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis, which literally means joint inflammation. About 70 million Americans are afflicted, and more than half of those have osteoarthritis, by far the most common form, especially among older people. Arthroscopy,Bone spurs,Bouchard's nodes,Heberden's nodes,Hyaluronic acid,joint inflammation,Osteoarthritis,Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
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Publication:NWHRC Health Center - Osteoarthritis
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 14, 2005
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