What is Osteoarthritis?
by Dr. Derek Miller
Published in Neosho Daily News
Monday, August 3, 2009

Osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage, can affect one or more joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common of more than 100 different types of arthritis, affecting more than 20 million people in the United States. Before age 45, osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in males. After age 55, it occurs more frequently in females. 

Mostly related to aging, osteoarthritis commonly affects the hands, feet, spine, and large weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Cartilage, a protein substance, serves as a cushion between the bones of the joints. With aging, cartilage degenerates and eventually begins to erode by flaking or forming tiny cracks. Loss of the cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and stiffness. Repetitive use of the worn joints over the years can irritate and inflame the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. In advanced cases, patients experience a total loss of the cartilage cushion. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths, or bone spurs, to form around the joints.

Other diseases and conditions can cause osteoarthritis. These include obesity, repeated trauma and surgery to the joint structures, abnormal joints at birth, gout, and diabetes.

Surgery is generally reserved for patients with particularly severe osteoarthritis that does not respond to conservative treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medication or injections into the joint. Arthroscopy, a procedure using a small camera inserted into the joint, can help find tears in the cartilage. In some cases, severely degenerated joints are best treated by replacement with an artificial joint, which can bring dramatic pain relief and improved function. Total hip and total knee replacements are quite successful and very safe for most patients. Following joint replacement, patients typically experience complete relief from the pain of osteoarthritis and overall improved mobility and quality of life.

About Derek Miller, DO
Derek Miller, DO, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with Freeman Midwest Orthopaedics in Joplin and also sees patients Thursdays in Neosho at Freeman Neosho Medical Building. For an appointment or additional information, please call 417.347.2807 or 800.835.7976.