Ask a Doctor: Osteoarthritis

Hand surgeon Khurram Pervaiz, MD answers your questions about osteoarthritis.

My doctor told me I have osteoarthritis. What is that?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and involves wear and tear of the joint.  This form of arthritis is caused by inflammation, breakdown, and the eventual loss of cartilage in the joint – the cartilage wears down over time.

What causes osteoarthritis?

There are many reasons for osteoarthritis of a joint. The most common factors that lead to osteoarthritis are old age, genetics, weight and injury / trauma.

What are some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis affecting a joint can cause a variety of symptoms such as pain, stiffness (limited mobility), warmth, and swelling. There may be a grating feeling (or crepitus) with movement of the joint.

How can you treat osteoarthritis?

Treatment of osteoarthritis is based on the severity of symptoms. Mild symptoms are treated with anti-inflammatory medication, warmth and topical creams. Home exercises or formal therapy may be helpful in pain relief and with maintaining or improving mobility in a stiff arthritic joint.

More severe symptoms may require injection therapy into the joint. Cortisone injections are commonly used for pain relief and to reduce inflammation in an arthritis joint.

In cases where conservative treatment has not helped, surgical treatment may be recommended. Surgical treatment for osteoarthritis may involve joint replacement surgery, fusion surgery or interposition surgery. In joint replacement surgery, the painful joint is removed and replaced with an artificial prosthetic joint. The artificial joint may be made of silicone, metal and plastic or other materials. In fusion surgery, the joint is removed and fused into a solid bone. While this eliminates pain, it also reduces or eliminates motion in the joint and causes permanent stiffness. This is generally reserved for certain joints such as finger joints and the wrist joint. In interposition surgery, the joint is removed and is replaced with a spacer which serves as a cushion. This is most commonly done for thumb basal joint arthritis where the arthritic thumb bone is removed and replaced with a tendon which acts as the spacer.

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Khurram Pervaiz, MD is a partner at the Orthopedic Associates of Central Maryland (OACM) Division of the Centers for Advanced Orthopedics (CAO) in Columbia, MD and specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery. He completed his orthopedic surgery training at VCU Medical Center in Richmond and completed sub-specialty fellowships in hand surgery and shoulder & elbow surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and the Florida Orthopedic Institute.

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