What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a medical condition which may affect the joints and may bring about unpleasant signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms vary from person to person and may differ between affected joints. These symptoms are due to mild inflammation of the tissues in and around the joints, damage to the cartilage which is the strong and smooth surface the lines bones and joints and bony growths that develop around the edge of the joints. All these physical changes can lead to pain, stiffness and difficulty doing certain activities.
Common sites affected by arthritis are knees, hips, spine and small joints of the hands and base of the big toe. However, almost any joint can be affected. These joints are affected by pain and stiffness, leading to difficulty in moving the affected joints or doing certain activities. Sometimes, in milder forms of osteoarthritis there may be few on no symptoms at all as the pain can come in episodes. The symptoms may develop slowly into severe osteoarthritis. Other symptoms may include joint tenderness, increased pain and stiffness when you have not moved your joints for a while, joints appearing slightly larger than usual, a grating or crackling sound or sensation in your joints, limited range of movement in your joints and weakness and muscle wasting.
Osteoarthritis can affect both knees over time unless the arthritis is the result of an injury or another condition affecting only one knee. The knees may feel pain upon walking particularly when walking uphill or going up stairs. Sometimes, your knees may ‘give way’ beneath you or make it difficult to straighten your legs. You may also hear a soft, grating sound when you move the affected joint.
Osteoarthritis in the hips
Osteoarthritis in your hips can bring about difficulty in moving your hip joints. Patients may find it hard to put on their shoes and socks or get in and out of a car. There is usually pain in the groin or outside the hip, which is worse when you move the hip. There may also be referred pain in the knee because of the transmission of pain signals. In most cases, pain will be at its worst when walking, although it can also affect the person during rest. Severe pain may warrant consult to an orthopaedic surgeon, in which case a joint replacement operation may be needed.
Osteoarthritis may also affect the spine; the areas of the spine most likely to be affected are the neck and the lower back as these are the most mobile parts of the spine. This condition may also affect the neck so that the ability to turn the head is affected. Other symptoms include muscle spasm in the neck, and pain from the neck can sometimes be felt in the shoulders and arms. Osteoarthritis may also affect the three main areas of the hand: the base of the thumb, the joints closest to the fingertips and the middle joints of the fingers. The fingers may become stiff, painful and swollen and bumps may appear in the finger joints.
Biomarkers in Severe Osteoarthritis
A recent study has identified a correlation between the presence of biomarkers in the blood, known as micro RNAs (miRNAs), and the development of severe osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee or hip joint. The findings suggest that miRNAs may be used as biomarkers to predict severe OA disease in individuals. In this study, researchers examined the serum samples of people with OA, through which they identified three potential miRNA markers. The 816 patients were followed over 15 years and measured for the presence of the 374 miRNAs and the occurrence of OA, using joint replacement (known as arthroplasty), as a definitive outcome of severe OA in the knee or hip.
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