Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease caused by the inflammation of the joints, resulting in thinning of the articular cartilage. Known as the most common form of arthritis, OA affects up to 10% of the adult and 20% of the elderly population in Singapore. The number of cases are likely to be underdiagnosed as many do not seek medical attention and attributed the condition to old age.
Osteoarthritis tends to affect joints such as the knees, hips, and spine, causing pain which worsens as the day progresses. It may also result in difficulty performing simple activities such as walking, climbing the stairs, squatting, or even kneeling.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, its symptoms can be managed to help slow the progression of the disease.
Osteoarthritis is mostly diagnosed by your doctor through performing a physical examination and an assessment of your medical history. Certain common symptoms such as joint pain or stiffness after a period of inactivity, also called the “gelling phenomenon”, could help identify the disease.
Pain on range of motion, and also limitation of range of motion are other common symptoms of osteoarthritis. Typically X-rays may be ordered to evaluate the status and alignment of the affected joints. Blood tests, even if ordered, will be to rule out other conditions rather than to diagnose OA.
Osteoarthritis can happen in any joint, however, the most commonly affected joints are :
You may feel any one or more of the following symptoms at the affected joints:
As the disease progresses, your pain would become more intense, and swelling may occur. Early diagnosis will help people with osteoarthritis better manage the condition.
While there are no direct known causes of OA, the following may contribute to it:
Age: As people get older, the risk of developing OA increases due to wear and tear of the bones, muscles, and joints. Most people over the age 60 have OA to some degree, but its severity varies.
Gender: Females are more likely to experience OA. Decreased estrogen as experienced by post-menopausal women increases the risk of knee OA as estrogen protects the bones, specifically by reducing oxidative stress to the cartilage.
Previous Joint injury: Any broken bone, ligament tear, or general joint injury can lead to OA after a number of years.
Overuse or overactivity of joints: Utilization of the same joints repeatedly in physically demanding jobs, or in sports such as tennis or golf, may result in OA over time.
Obesity. Extra weight puts more stress on the joints, in particular of the knee, by overloading the weight-bearing mechanisms of the body. Also, the metabolic and pro-inflammatory effects of obesity have been studied as a contributing factor to osteoarthritis.
Weak muscles or muscle loss: Joints can be displaced from the right position when there is not enough support.
Genes: People with family members who have OA are more likely to develop OA. Individuals born with other bone diseases or genetic traits may also be more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Despite its prevalance affecting those over the age of 60, a recent study published in ANNALS Academy of Medicine Singapore found that 96% of knee replacements performed in Singapore are caused by osteoarthritis, and 4.8% of people who receive total knee replacements are below the age of 50.
Other treatment options include:
The heavier you are, the higher the load is transferred to your leg joints and higher the chance of condition deteriorating. Sometimes, it may just be a case of lifestyle modification eg diet change to include more vegetables and fruits.
A physiotherapist can show you exercises to strengthen and increase the muscles around your joint to reduce pain. Regular exercise that you do on your own, such as swimming or walking, can be equally effective.
Under the Ministry of Health’s Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP), you may also be eligible to claim up to S$500 from your Medisave. Fusion Medical is one of the participating CDMP GP clinics which is able to help you to check on your Medisave balance for claims purposes.
Speak to our doctors today to know which is the best option for you.
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Dr Wenus Ho is a family physician and a designated workplace doctor with more than a decade of clinical experience. She is also currently a postgraduate tutor for the Graduate Diploma of Family Medicine (GDFM) Training Program in the Yong Yoo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore....
After graduating from Guys’, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine in the United Kingdom, Dr Juliana went on to complete her Graduate Diploma in Family medicine at the National University of Singapore. She also has completed her diploma in Occupational Medicine. Dr Juliana applies her...
Dr Yong graduated from University College London, United Kingdom, with a Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery with distinction in medical sciences. She has more than 10 years of experience as a general practitioner, and was accredited as family physician by the Family Physician Accreditation...
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