What is it?
Osteoarthritis is a condition involving a degenerative or gradual break down and wearing away of the joints. A normal joint has healthy bone surfaces on each side separated by a smooth cartilaginous interface or lining. The osteoarthritic joint is narrowed or closed due to a loss of the cartilage and the opposing bone surfaces are frequently abnormal with calcium spurs, cysts, and changes in density. Two common problems that seem to go hand in hand with an involved joint are that of localized pain and swelling. As the actual joint space becomes narrowed, a subsequent loss of motion is usually noticed. The foot with its many irregularly shaped joints is a common site for early osteoarthritic changes.
What causes it?
It is difficult to identify or discuss the actual cause of osteoarthritis. Typically, it is regarded as a disease or condition of aging. In other words, sooner or later if one lives long enough, he or she will develop osteoarthritis. The degree of involvement however, the age of onset, and the extent of disability and progression of the condition are large question marks with no exact answers. We simply don't know enough to make accurate predictions about the progression of this painfully degenerative ailment.
How do you treat it?
The treatment approach to the osteoarthritic patient is focused primarily on reducing and managing the associated symptoms. The main objectives are to reduce pain, swelling, and possibly any further degeneration of the joints. We accomplish these goals by using oral anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, shoe modifications, injection therapy, and prescription orthotics. In certain cases, we use surgical procedures to repair and restore the existing joints that have been destroyed by the arthritic process. It should be kept in mind that as of today, we do not have a cure for osteoarthritis. At best, we can develop effective treatments for symptomatic relief but with normal wear and tear of the joints in the aging process, this condition will continue to accompany us.