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What are long-term effects of osteoarthritis?

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Joint degeneration leading to knee or hip replacement and bone-on-bone movement in the joints are long-term effects of osteoarthritis, according to The Arthritis Society. Patients with osteoarthritis have pain, stiffness, redness or swelling in their joints. The condition most commonly affects people over age 60 and affects men and women in equal numbers.

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Approximately 40 million Americans have osteoarthritis, and 70 to 90 percent of Americans over age 75 have the condition in at least one joint, the American Academy of Family Physicians estimates. Women typically experience osteoarthritis earlier and more severely than men. Risk factors for both men and women include crystals in the joint fluid or cartilage, high bone mineral density, injury to a joint, obesity and prolonged occupational or sports stress to joints.

Physicians treat osteoarthritis with a combination of exercise, weight loss, physical therapy and medications, according to WebMD. Exercise strengthens muscles around the joint and improves joint movement. Over-the-counter pain relievers used to treat the condition include acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen. Physicians can also prescribe creams, rubs, sprays or stronger anti-inflammatory medications. If patients still experience pain, physicians may choose to inject steroids directly into the joint. Other treatments include using hot and cold compresses on the affected joint, removing joint fluid and using crutches or canes.

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