Osteoarthritis

Close to 100,000 knee replacements and almost as many hip replacements are performed each year in the UK. This gives an idea of the huge burden to our population from osteoarthritis. Another way of looking at it, is that joint replacement surgery is very successful as a treatment for patients. There is hope that scientific work will eventually allow joints to be preserved, rather than replaced. We are still some distance from this scenario, despite there being some promising work, and so joint replacement is here to stay for the time being.

People often wonder if their osteoarthritis is due to their occupation, or because of something that they have done. Most often than not, there is nothing to blame specifically, and so it is more a case of this being such a common problem. This is known as primary osteoarthritis. Some people describe it as a primary disease of cartilage. The cartilage in the joint unfortunately softens and cracks develop. It is then left more vulnerable than before and so the cycle continues. Secondary osteoarthritis is something different and the cause can be traced back to an injury in the past, such as a fracture or ligament rupture.

    There are a varied group of disorders that come under the heading of inflammatory arthritis. This is when the arthritis is driven by inflammation within the joint. In this group of disorders, the immune system malfunctions and attacks your own joints. Surgery can be required, just as in osteoarthritis, but it is vital to have assessment and medical treatment from a rheumatologist.

    Arthritis affects many people and most are managing their symptoms and continuing their work and pass times. At the other end of the spectrum, patients are visiting orthopaedic surgeons to discuss joint replacement, because their symptoms have become too intrusive, or they are no longer responding to other forms of management. For more moderate symptoms, the options need to be carefully considered and come down to a joint assessment between the patient and surgeon. They may opt to work with the physiotherapists, try joint injection options, or pursue joint preserving surgery.

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