Osteoarthritis is often called the wear and tear arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage of a joint becomes damaged. When the cartilage deteriorates, the bone underneath can thicken, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. The joints most affected are the knees, hips, hands and big toes. In severe cases, the cartilage can deteriorate to the extent that the bones rub together making it difficult to move.
What causes the problem?
As joints are being used continuously through daily movement, wear and tear is inevitable. For some people, the natural repair process does not function properly and causes severe wear and tear.
Is it serious?
The symptoms of Osteoarthritis tend to mild in most cases and tend not to get worse over time. Symptoms can vary and come and go over time.
Who gets it?
Osteoarthritis is uncommon before the age of 40 and is more common in women than men. Osteoarthritis is most often caused by age and weight. As we age, we tend to put on weight and thereby put more pressure on our joints. Muscles become weaker and our body loses its ability to heal itself.
How do I know I have it?
You may initially feel a toothache-type pain in the affected joint that gets worse when you’re active, wearing high heels or when it’s cold and damp. It may progress to the stage where your feet ache at night. In severe cases, the range of movement in the joint may fail to the extent that you cannot move it at all.
When should I see a podiatrist about it?
Although there is no known cure for Osteoarthritis, there are many ways we can help reduce pain. Orthoses are special shoe inserts that help redistribute the pressure as you walk. They’ll help you walk in such a way that alleviates the pain in your joints. We can also advise you on the best type of footwear to wear. We may also strap the feet for a short time to limit joint movement. Protective shields for your toes or padding can relieve pressure and friction.
If your problem doesn’t improve with the above measures, you may be referred to a podiatric surgeon. You may be suitable for excisional arthroplasty, interpositional arthroplasty, osteotomy, joint replacement or arthrodesis. However, surgery is only used as a last resort.