Treating the most common form of arthritis
The term “arthritis” literally means inflammation of a joint, but it is generally used to describe any condition in which there is damage to the cartilage. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. The warning signs that inflammation presents are redness, swelling, heat and pain. Cartilage is a connective tissue and is padding that absorbs stress. The proportion of cartilage damage and synovial inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. Usually, the pain early on is due to inflammation. In the later stages, when the cartilage is worn away, most of the pain comes from the mechanical friction of raw bones rubbing on each other.
There are over 100 different types of rheumatic diseases. The most common type is osteoarthritis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 30 million adults are affected by osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, or OA, is also called a degenerative joint disease, and it occurs often in older people. This disease affects cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones in a joint. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to wear away over time. In extreme cases, the cartilage can completely wear away, leaving nothing to protect the bones in a joint, causing bone-on-bone contact. Bones may also bulge, or stick out at the end of a joint, called a bone spur.
causes joint pain and can limit a person’s normal range of motion (the ability to freely move and bend a joint). When severe, the joint may lose all movement, causing a person to become disabled. Disability most often happens when the disease affects the spine, knees and hips.
OA is caused by the wearing out of the cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bone in a joint. This may be due to excessive strain over prolonged periods, or due to other joint diseases, injury or deformity. Primary osteoarthritis is commonly associated with aging and general degeneration of joints. Secondary osteoarthritis is generally the consequence of another disease or condition, such as repeated trauma or surgery to the affected joint, or abnormal joint structures from birth.
There is no cure for arthritis. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine, or they may recommend occupational therapy or physical therapy, which includes exercises and heat treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be suggested. The type of surgery will depend on your age and severity of the disease. In the elderly with severe arthritis, joint replacement can give good results.
One procedure performed to treat OA is arthroplasty. In this procedure, a surgeon removes the affected joint and replaces it with an artificial implant, called prostheses or implants. The goal of the surgery is to relieve pain and restore the normal functioning of the joint. Total joint replacement can be performed through an open or minimally invasive approach.
R. Shane Barton, MD, is department chairman and Thomas Norris MD Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at LSU Health Shreveport and is chief of the Shoulder, Elbow and Sports Medicine Division. Dr. Barton specializes in the treatment of pediatric and adult sports-related injuries, as well as complex shoulder, elbow and knee joint reconstruction procedures. He serves as the head team physician for numerous local and regional high schools, colleges, professional teams and Olympic sports. For all appointments and inquiries relating to the LSU Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, please call (318) 813-7100 or visit www.shanebartonmd.com.