Osteoarthritis affects many elderly women. You just need to be close to them to discover this. They can barely walk long distances. They have issues climbing stairs. They can’t stand for a long time. It’s a painful situation to be in. To get to the root of the matter, City People’s Contributing Editor, IYABO OYAWALE spoke to Dr. Emmanuel Daudu, the Medical Director of Glad Tidings Medical Centre, Ipaja, Lagos. He explains why Osteoarthritis affects more women than men. Read on for more!
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition characterized by deterioration of protective cartilaginous tissues in joints which results in bones rubbing together with resulting wear and tears in such joints.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most chronic and degenerative joint diseases and a major cause of severe joint pains in the elderly.
Do you have the statistics of Osteoarthritis in Nigeria?
Commoner in females, it is the leading cause of disability (inability to walk or a part of the body) affecting about 60 -70% of the population above the age of 60 years.
Many hospital-based studies in Nigeria have shown that OA is common in Nigeria with female preponderance of 3.5-5 female: 1 male ratio.
And among the different types of OA depending on the part of the body affected, OA of the knee joint is the commonest.
What are the causes of Osteoarthritis?
OA is caused by joint damage. This damage can have a cumulative effect over time, which is why age is one of the main causes of the joint damage leading to OA. The older you are, the more repetitive stress you’ve had on your joints.
Other causes of joint damage include: • Past injury, such as torn cartilage, dislocated joints, or ligament injuries • Joint malformation • Obesity • Poor posture • Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing OA.
They include: • Having family with the condition, particularly parents or siblings • Gender, with women having higher rates of OA than men • Being at least 50 years old, according to the Arthritis Foundation • Having undergone menopause • Having an occupation that involves kneeling, climbing, heavy lifting, or similar actions • A history of injury • Being overweight or having obesity • Poor posture • Having another medical condition that affects your joint health, such as diabetes or a different type of arthritis
How does Osteoarthritis manifest? What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of OA include: • Joint pain • Stiffness in the joint • Loss of flexibility manifesting as reduced range of motion over the affected joint • Tenderness or discomfort when pressing on the affected areas with your fingers. Also, crepitus, or grating, crackling, clicking, or popping sounds when you move your joints may be felt • Bone spurs, or extra lumps of bone, which are typically painless.
As OA becomes more advanced, the pain associated with it may become more intense as to cause partial or total disability.
Over time inflammatory swelling associated with pain/tenderness, warmness and/or redness may occur in the joint and the surrounding area.
What treatment options are available for Osteoarthritis?
Appropriate OA treatment would depend upon the severity of the pain or disability as well as the location involved.
For those with mild to moderate OA, Often, medications, lifestyle changes including exercise, and home remedies will be enough to provide relief from pain, stiffness, and swelling. Such medications include: • Oral OTC pain relievers • Topical pain relievers which are available as creams, gels, and patches will help to numb the joint area and can provide pain relief, especially for mild arthritis pain • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs help reduce swelling and • Corticosteroids which are available in oral as well as injectable forms can be administered in severe cases.
But for the patients crippled with varying degrees of disabilities especially at the knee and hip joints owing to Osteoarthritis, replacement surgery would bring them back to a normal lifestyle. People with early stages of OA are therefore advised to seek doctor’s attention early enough to prevent the deteriorating effect of degenerative changes that get worse with age.
Can it be cured?
Now because Osteoarthritis is associated with degeneration of cartilage in the joints, together with involving predisposing factors leading to pain and reduced functionality, it would be more appropriate to talk about management rather than curative measure.
With good management that also takes effective handling of the risk factors into consideration, coupled with cartilage replacement surgery, as the case may be, the OA patient’s condition may be restored to a normal lifestyle.
How can Osteoarthritis be prevented among Nigerians?
Risk factors for osteoarthritis include age, injury/trauma, obesity, abnormal joint structure, genetic abnormalities to cartilage and age.
Interventions for osteoarthritis include supporting collagen production, reducing inflammation, normalizing body weight, and strengthening surrounding muscles to stabilize joints.
Cartilage production can be supported with Type 2 collagen hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, vitamin C and ensuring there are optimum levels of all nutrients including vitamin A, D, E, B6, zinc and copper.
Exercise is essential for preventing cartilage degradation and providing muscle strength. Although excess weight-bearing exercise should be done with caution and not when there are joint injuries or abnormalities. Swimming, cycling, and backward walking have been shown to be effective for OA patients.
Other therapies such as magnetic therapy, acupuncture and relaxation techniques have also been shown to be helpful for OA patients.
One research I read said more women are affected by Osteoarthritis. Do you see more women with this disorder in your practice?
Yes, sure. I see more women in the Hospital presenting with varying degrees of OA symptoms than have men in a ratio of 4:1.
What should people who have Osteoarthritis do to lessen the pain and live a normal life?
Women of all ages should take precautions on how to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis and to manage it well if you already have it through the following ways: 1. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. 2. Incorporating exercise into daily activities. 3. Staying strong and flexible to reduce the risk of injury 4. Finally, seeing your doctor to determine the best course of therapy if you are experiencing Osteoarthritis symptoms.
Why do more women suffer from Osteoarthritis than men?
Women are found to be suffering from osteoarthritis than men, due to obesity, especially as they go through menopause which often makes them gain weight, and the increased stress on the joints may explain the rise in Osteoarthritis seen among women after age 50 -60.
Another possible explanation is anatomical: women’s hips are wider than men’s. The angle formed by the hip bones being wider than the knees puts more stress on the outside of the knees. This “knock-kneed” position, even if slight, can cause Osteoarthritis over time in some women.
In addition, because more ladies now get involved in sports over the last couple of decades, more females are experiencing sports injuries to knee, putting them at an increased risk of Osteoarthritis over time.
Women are also more likely to develop a condition called a patellofemoral syndrome, in which the kneecap (patella) does not glide smoothly over the joint and rubs against the lower part of the thighbone (femur). This misalignment may be exacerbated by hyper-extended knees in women who wear high heels. The recurrent rubbing of the kneecap on the thighbone causes wear and tear that can progress to arthritis and cause pain in the front of the knee.