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OSTEOARTHRITIS

  • Pain with no benefit from common pain relievers
  • Confusion regarding the diagnosis (Osteoarthritis can be confused with rheumatoid arthritis.)
  • Disability or loss of mobility, especially if sudden
When to go to the hospital
  • Trauma: Injuries from trauma such as falls, especially sports-related injuries, may require x-rays.
  • Signs of infection: Fever, redness, or joint swelling may indicate inflammation or an infection involving the joint. A joint infection is a serious problem requiring prompt diagnosis and antibiotic therapy. Gout can also have similar symptoms.
  • Sudden inability to walk, bear weight, or a significant change in function would be a reason to seek immediate medical help.
Self-Care at Home

Lifestyle changes may delay or limit osteoarthritis symptoms.

  • Weight loss: One study suggested that, for women, weight loss may reduce the risk for osteoarthritis in the knee.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise may help to strengthen the muscles and potentially stimulate cartilage growth. Avoid high-impact sports. The following types of exercise are recommended: range of motion, strengthening, and aerobic.
  • Diet: Antioxidant vitamins C and E may provide some protection. Vitamin D and calcium are recommended for strong bones. The recommended daily dose of calcium is 1000-1200mg. The current guideline for vitamin D is 400 IU per day. Avoid more than 1200 IU of vitamin D per day.
  • Heat: Hot soaks and warm wax (paraffin) application may relieve pain.
  • Orthoses: These assistive devices are used to improve function of moveable parts of the body or to support, align, prevent, or correct deformities. Splints or braces help with joint alignment and weight redistribution. Other examples include walkers, crutches or canes, and orthopedic footwear.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the first drug recommended for osteoarthritis.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used for arthritis pain. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and ketoprofen (Orudis).
    • Newer OTC preparations include chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate, which are natural substances found in the joint fluid. Chondroitin is thought to promote an increase in the making of the building blocks of cartilage (collagen and proteoglycans) as well as having an anti-inflammatory effect. Glucosamine may also stimulate production of the building blocks of cartilage as well as being an anti-inflammation agent. Glucosamine was found to increase blood sugar in animal studies, so people with diabetes should consult their doctor first. A recent study showed that glucosamine slowed progression of osteoarthritis in the knee.
  • Arthritis  self-help course: The Arthritis Foundation offers an educational program on the causes and treatment of arthritis. Exercise, nutrition, relaxation, and pain management programs are covered as well as ways to communicate with your doctor. Completion of the program reduced pain by 20% and doctor visits by 40%.

Prevention
No absolute way to prevent osteoarthritis is available. But lifestyle changes may reduce or limit symptoms.

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