What is osteoarthritis and arthritis?
Osteoarthritis (arthritis) is a common chronic progressiv disesase characterized by joint inflammation, pain and loss of joint mobility. The joint inflammation usually starts in the joint capsule and gradually leads to breakdown of the articular cartilage, thickening of the joint capsule inflamed synovial fluid and bone deposits in and around the joint. On loading, the inflammation gives rise to pain. Joint inflammation is a disease in which the condition develops slowly and deterioration occurs gradually, finally leading to joint failure.
In inflammation, breakdown enzyme is released from the cartilage and joint capsule. The synovial fluid and joint capsule become inflamed, and the constituents of the cartilage are gradually broken down. The underlying bone may respond by forming more bone and becoming rigid. The cartilage is unable to bend as well against the rigid bone, and small fractures may be formed at the transition between cartilage and bone. If greater damage occurs, it may be difficult for the cartilage to repair itself.
The early stages of osteoarthritis can be treated with a number of conservative treatments that do not involve surgery, and exercise is one of the most effective forms of treatment. Supply of hyaluronic acid by injection (medicine) or as dietary supplement has also been found to help many people. Hyaluronic acid forms part of the synovial fluid and acts as a shock absorber and lubricant, but is also one of the most important constituents of cartilage tissue, and in addition is antiinflammatory.
When the symptoms of osteoarthritis become more severe, an operation may become necessary to correct the damaged bone and cartilage.
The joints most often damaged by osteoarthritis are the knees, hips, fingers and shoulders.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a less common disease than osteoarthritis and chiefly affects women. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, the cause of which is unknown, but there is a genetic link. The body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue and causes inflammation in the joints and consequently breakdown of the structures contained in the joint, and results in damage to the cartilage, swellings and severe pain and reduced mobility. It is important to treat inflammation as quickly as possible, as joint damage does not heal once it has occurred.