Living with Osteoarthritis

JANUARY 13, 2015
Yvette C. Terrie, BSPharm, RPh
Various treatments for osteoarthritis can decrease pain and maintain joint mobility.
Osteoarthritis (OA), which is the most common form of arthritis, is a progressive disorder caused by the breakdown of cartilage that cushions the joints. OA involves the entire joint, including the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments, and underlying bone.1,2 In addition to reducing joint mobility, OA causes pain, stiffness, and weakness that can negatively impact an individual’s ability to perform routine tasks and consequently reduce his or her overall quality of life. According to the Arthritis Foundation, an estimated 27 million individuals in the United States have some degree of OA.1

Although OA can occur in individuals of any age, its incidence increases with age, especially in those 65 years and older. In fact, OA is considered the leading cause of disability among elderly individuals.1,2 OA can occur in any joint, but the most commonly affected areas are the joints of the fingers, base of the thumbs, hips, knees, neck, big toes, and lower back.1-5 The elbows and ankles may also be affected.1-5 The extent of OA and which joints are affected vary; many individuals experience issues with range of motion. Some patients with OA may need assistance completing daily tasks such as climbing stairs, walking, lifting or grasping objects, and getting up from a seated position.

Osteoarthritis Risk Factors
OA typically develops slowly and worsens over time, especially if left untreated. Risk factors can be classified as genetic, metabolic, or environmental. Common risk factors associated with OA include the following1- 5:
  • Increased age
  • Gender (OA appears to be more common in women older than 55 years)
  • Obesity
  • Joint injury
  • Overuse of joint
  • Genetics
  • Repetitive stress on joints due to certain occupations or sports
  • Improperly formed joints
  • Other medical conditions, such as diabetes or gout