The most common form of arthritis affecting people today is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. It is estimated that over 20 million Americans are afflicted with osteoarthritis and it remains the biggest cause of disability among adults. But this number is expected to skyrocket in coming years as the growing numbers of baby boomers retire. Still, young people can also acquire osteoarthritis from severe joint injuries but it remains a major health concern for older persons.
Although diagnosed in over 20 million people, it is estimated that half the population has osteoarthritis in at least one or more joints. Basically, it is a very common affliction and risks increase as we age. And unfortunately, osteoarthritis is common in both men and women. Oddly enough, however, the condition is more common in men before the age of forty-five. After 45, osteoarthritis is more prevalent in women.
So how exactly does osteoarthritis affect the body? Well, the disease mainly affects the cartilage in our bodies. Cartilage is important to us because it is what covers the ends of our bones. Those bones come together in joints and the cartilage is what prevents them from rubbing together. Cartilage is also a natural shock absorber and helps our bodies weather the physical activity we put them through.
However, osteoarthritis causes the surface layer of the cartilage to break down and dissipate. What then happens is the bones no longer have the same level of protection so when they rub together. The result will be painful and a person will lose movement as the disease progresses.
The joint itself will actually start to lose its shape as osteoarthritis progresses. This may then allow bone spurs to grow on the edges of the joints. When these bone spurs break off, they may become lodged in the joint and cause further discomfort and injury. In time, osteoarthritis can all but incapacitate a person and leave them immobile.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot physicians can do in order to stop the progression of osteoarthritis. Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen will generally help alleviate the swelling in the joints and thus lessen pain, but no actual treatment exists. However, research has shown that maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle tend to delay the onset of the condition.
Osteoarthritis is a very painful and debilitating disease that afflicts millions of people every year. As our population ages and the baby boomers begin to retire in force, osteoarthritis will become an even larger health issue. Research is currently being conducted that hopes to one day be able to repair the cartilage itself and thus repair the damage caused by osteoarthritis. For now, those with the condition should consult with their physicians in order to determine the best pain management strategy for their osteroarthritis.