If you are experiencing stiffness, pain, or swelling in your joints and a “crackling” noise when you move your joints, you may have osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. More than 16 million Americans have osteoarthritis to some degree. The disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States. However, most people with osteoarthritis can manage their symptoms and lead productive lives.
At least 2 to 3 percent of all adult Americans, including half of those older than 65, have some evidence of osteoarthritis visible on an X-ray. As baby boomers age, the disease will become even more common. Osteoarthritis in the knees and hands occurs more frequently in women; in the hips, the disease affects men and women equally.
Osteoarthritis usually results from injury to a joint or from wear and tear on the joints over time. The following factors can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis:
The joints that are most-often affected by osteoarthritis include the knees, hips, back, neck, toes and fingers. The disorder often develops in only one or two joints at first. See your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms that last for more than two weeks:
The pain from osteoarthritis can be deep and aching in or near the affected joint. The pain can come and go and increase or decrease in severity, depending on the time of day or type of activity you are engaged in. The pain may be worse after you overuse your joints, such as by exercising excessively, or after long periods of inactivity. Some people who have osteoarthritis have the most pain in the morning, after resting their joints all night. They usually need a little time to “loosen up” their stiff joints before they can move them comfortably. Many people have pain that worsens at the end of the day.
If weight loss and exercise are not effective in relieving your symptoms, your doctor may recommend medication. Arthritis medications generally are used to reduce pain and tenderness in the joints. No drugs are available that can actually stop the progression of the disease or cure it. Many medications that are used to relieve osteoarthritis pain are available over the counter.