Osteoarthritis of the Knee and Hip
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of more than 100 kinds of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis, affects more than 20 million Americans and is more common as we age. Osteoarthritis results when the protective cushion of cartilage covering the ends of the bones breaks down and wears away, causing irritation, stiffness and pain.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but is most common in the hands, spine, and especially the large weight-bearing joints— the knees and hips.
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What causes osteoarthritis?
In most cases, the exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, and is referred to as “primary osteoarthritis.” Primary osteoarthritis is related to aging and wear and tear. With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases, while its protein structure deteriorates. The cartilage may then become flaky and covered with tiny cracks. In advanced cases, the entire cushion of cartilage is lost, resulting in painful bone-onbone contact.
When the cause of osteoarthritis is known, it is called “secondary osteoarthritis.” Conditions and diseases that can lead to secondary osteoarthritis, include obesity, trauma, diabetes, gout and congenital joint defects.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
There is no blood test for osteoarthritis. However, blood tests may be ordered to rule out some of the conditions that may cause secondary osteoarthritis or the other types of arthritis that mimic osteoarthritis symptoms. Once other problems are ruled out, a simple X-ray and an examination by an orthopedic specialist will confirm the diagnosis of osteoarthritis and, more importantly, its severity. If osteoarthritis is in a weight-bearing joint (hip or knee), the X-rays will show a narrowing of the space between the joint, confirming the loss of protective cartilage.
How is osteoarthritis treated?
While there are no cures for arthritis, the past few years have seen dramatic new ways to manage the pain, lack of mobility, and fatigue that are among its most disabling symptoms. Specific treatment for osteoarthritis will be by you and your doctor. Whatever course you decide, the goals of treatment are to reduce joint pain and stiffness, and improve joint movement. Treatment may include:
- Exercise – Frequent stretching and strengthening exercises may help reduce the symptoms and pain associated
- Diet – While there is no evidence that any particular foods can relieve arthritis symptoms, every extra pound you carry puts added stress on your knees and hips. Staying at a healthy weight can prevent or reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
- Heat Therapy – Heat applied directly to the painful joint can sometimes reduce pain and stiffness.
- Medications – There are a large number of medications to help reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. Most commonly used medications are analgesics (pain relievers), such as acetaminophen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. It is important to talk to your doctor to discuss which medication may be best for you.
- Cortisone Injections – Injections of cortisone mixed with an anesthetic directly into the joint can often reduce pain and restore function, sometimes for months at a time. Cortisone injections can be harmful to tissues and bones, and when recommended, are usually limited to no more than three times a year.
- Visco-supplementation – The injection of a gel-like medication (hyaluronates) into a joint to supplement the viscous properties of synovial fluid can sometimes be helpful.
- Surgery – For those whose symptoms no longer respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be considered. Knee and hip replacement may be a positive solution to the pain and disability of advanced osteoarthritis. The rough, worn surfaces of the joint are relined with smooth-surfaced metal and plastic components.
Why choose us?
If you and your physician have determined that surgery is your best option, the Advanced Spine & Joint Institute at Alvarado Hospital is modeled after the nationally renowned Marshall Steele program, which is recognized for superior outcomes. In fact, Alvarado has the first and only Marshall Steele-based program in San Diego for total joint replacement. Marshall Steele programs have superior outcomes and high patient satisfaction scores.
Our specially designed recovery unit is decorated to reflect San Diego’s beautiful landscapes and landmarks—which is designed to optimize healing. This specially designed unit is combined with unique features, such as extensive pre- and post-education, wearing comfortable clothes from home, specialized surgical training, early mobility, and other program components.
You are invited to learn more about our program, find an orthopedic specialist and take an online video tour by visiting our website. To tour in person, call our care coordinators at 619-229-4548 or via e-mail. If you want to combine a healing environment with the latest advances in total joint replacement, look no further than the brand‐new Advanced Spine & Joint Institute at Alvarado Hospital.