What is osteoarthritis (OA)?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease with progressive destruction of the cartilage of the major joints of the body. The conditions for the development of osteoarthritis are usually present in early youth.
Minor injuries of the joints (knee, hip, hand) can cause abrasion which steadily wears away the cartilage. Over years and decades, improper loading or overloading of the articular cartilage causes further deformation. This can lead to inflammation and movement restrictions.
In the final stage of the disease, pain can dominate everyday life. This can lead to the unhealthy reliance on pain medication and/or surgery. However, there are measures that can be taken to help slow down the development of osteoarthritis. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and supplements can make a big difference, especially if the disease is identified early.
How common is OA?
Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent joint disease in the Western World. It’s common to have osteoarthritis in several regions of the body. The risk of developing this condition increases once people reach their late forties.
A report released from Arthritis Research UK in 2013 revealed that almost 9 million people in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis1. The number of hip and knee replacement surgeries recorded in 2011 in England and Wales was around 165, 000. The majority of these joint replacements were the result of osteoarthritis.
Although osteoarthritis is most prevalent in older people, the incidence of this disease is steadily increasing in younger generations. Malnutrition, stress factors and obesity are the leading reasons why more young people are developing arthritic joint damage.
Osteoarthritis is often classified as either primary or secondary.
In a primary osteoarthritis, there’s a progressive loss of cartilage without a direct cause. Recent research suggests that genetics may play a role2. However, imbalances in load capacity and the pressure placed on the joints is still a leading factor in the development of primary osteoarthritis.
Secondary osteoarthritis is affected by a variety of factors. It is typically initiated by an injury sustained during adolescence. It may also be caused by inflammation (arthritis) or a nutrient deficiency in the cartilage. Obesity, excessive meat consumption and overloading or incorrect loading of the joint may also be contributing factors. Knee joints, hips and wrists are most commonly affected.