Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints, causing them to become stiff and painful. In a normal joint, smooth tissue called cartilage covers the bone surfaces and allows bones to move freely against each other. In an osteoarthritic joint, the cartilage erodes, preventing free movement of the joint. The condition is widespread - according to figures published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), there are approximately 8.5 million people suffering from osteoarthritis in the UK. It is more common in women and significantly affects those in older age groups.
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness. Other symptoms can include joint swelling and decreased range of motion. The most commonly affected joints are those in the fingers, neck, lower back, knees and hips. For some sufferers, symptoms are mild and felt only after exercise. For others, symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on daily activities.
There are several risk factors which contribute to the development of osteoarthritis, including:
Though there is no curative treatment for osteoarthritis, it may be possible to reduce and manage the symptoms. NICE guidelines set out treatment recommendations for those who suffer from the condition as follows:
Rosie Nelson, an associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, said: “It is important to raise awareness of this potentially debilitating condition, which affects so many people. For some of our clients, negligent treatment, for example, delayed diagnosis of infection or failed surgeries, has caused an acceleration to their symptoms of osteoarthritis.
“If you, a friend or family member have concerns about the management or treatment of osteoarthritis – or the management of any other orthopaedic related condition, please contact our specialist orthopaedic team.”