Who is affected by osteoarthritis?

Last modified: December 12, 2019

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in the world. It affects around one in four people over the age of 45. Symptoms often develop gradually and are characterized by pain when using the affected joint and stiffness after periods of resting. Depending on the joint affected, there may also be some swelling, redness and tenderness. To a large extent, the disease develops in specific groups (such as people who are overweight, seniors, individuals with physically demanding jobs, and elite athletes). However, people not included in these groups can also be affected.

The disease always causes a deterioration of cartilage, regardless of which joint is affected. On the other hand, how deterioration happens can differ depending on which joint is affected. If you have osteoarthritis in your knee, for example, your mobility will be impaired and the joint may feel stiff. If you instead have osteoarthritis in the fingers, bumps can appear on the interim joints, and swelling and pain are common. This may also cause the fingers to be misaligned. However, many people affected by osteoarthritis can still live an active life, and with the right treatment most people can reduce their pain significantly.

Background factors – is osteoarthritis hereditary?

Research has shown that heredity plays a part in the development of osteoarthritis. Up to 50% of people with a close relative who has the disease are at risk of being affected. However, it is not a guarantee. There are many factors involved, such as previous injuries and long-term, repetitive strain. Being overweight can also be a risk factor.

Read more about the risk factors.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatism?

Rheumatism is a collective name for degenerative changes in the joints. The term rheumatism covers a range of different diagnoses and all share symptoms such as aching and stiff joints. The most common diagnoses are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, arthritis, fibromyalgia and psoriasis arthritis. Suffering from rheumatism is often associated with long-term stiffness, joint inflammation and pain. Today there is well-developed care that can support, alleviate and slow down the progress.

If you are suffering from osteoarthritis, you may have the condition for life and it is therefore extremely important to learn how to manage the symptoms. A physical therapist can help by providing customized training, which can have a positive impact on the disease. According to international guidelines, movement and exercise are particularly important for those with joint diseases as they have a positive effect.

Prevent the development of osteoarthritis after trauma

In some cases the disease may appear as a result of an injury. This is known as post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Common injuries which present an increased risk of the disease include injury to the cruciate ligament, a blow to the shoulder, or a fall that impacts the hip. At a later stage, one of these injuries could lead to discomfort and accelerate the development of a joint disease. Post-traumatic osteoarthritis is the same thing as simply osteoarthritis, and is therefore treated in the same way.

Treating osteoarthritis

The initial development of the disease is a result of several causes, one of which is the heredity mentioned above. A lifestyle with minimal movement or one with repetitive movements are also two possible factors. Age is not a risk factor in itself, but an older person’s joints have been subjected to one or several risk factors for a longer period, which is significant. Other possible causes for the disease are excessive strain from heavy work, elite sports, joint injuries, and also, in some cases, being overweight.

If you have osteoarthritis, there are several exercises that may help reduce the symptoms and enable you to return to a normal life. The key to recovery is instructor-led and long-term training. If people living with the disease combine an active lifestyle with information about the disease and choose a healthier diet, many of them notice differences both in their well-being and a reduction of pain after a number of weeks.

Read more about hereditary osteoarthritis.