What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition affecting the surfaces within your joints, meaning that they no longer move as smoothly as they should. As the affected joint becomes more worn, the tissues within the joint may try to repair it, which can cause thickening of the joint capsule, new bone formation and an increase in fluid production within the joint, which may cause the joint to swell.

As the condition becomes more advanced the joint surfaces (the cartilage) may wear away completely, meaning that your bones rub against each other. This can be painful, and result in loss of movement and deformity of the affected joint.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

The symptom of pain in osteoarthritis may be managed with analgesics (painkillers) such as paracetamol. Sometimes, stronger painkillers may be required, such as tramadol, however these can cause side effects such as nausea or dizziness, so should be used with caution.

Sometimes, if joint swelling is a particular problem, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used, for example ibuprofen or naproxen. These may only be required for a short time, until the swelling has reduced.

If one or two joints are painful and swollen, another option is a steroid injection into the affected joints. This provides an anti-inflammatory action directly to the joint, and can help to reduce swelling and pain, and may provide relief in that joint for weeks or even months. Some GPs are able to perform this procedure, or if not, they may offer to refer you to our joint injection clinic which we run on a weekly basis in the North Devon District Hospital.

In cases where pain and poor mobility are causing severe problems, joint surgery may be considered, such as hip or knee replacement. These procedures are becoming more common, and can provide relief where other treatments may have failed.

Where can I find out more about osteoarthritis?

arukArthritis Research UK

choicesNHS Choices – Live Well

  • Life with osteoarthritis – real life stories about osteoarthritis sufferers, including information about self-help and exercise

arthritis_careArthritis Care

Last updated: October 3, 2017