A debilitating condition, osteoarthritis (OA) has a huge impact on quality of life.
The pain and loss of mobility severely affects patients and decreases their level of independence greatly, with the more serious cases needing assistance to move around.
Contrary to popular belief, OA is not just confined to the elderly population – there have been many instances of young adults being afflicted with the condition as well.
According to University Malaya Medical Center, Head of Sports Medicine Department Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Nahar Azmi Mohamed, “though the degenerative effects of ageing do lead to instances of OA, there are other factors that also contribute to this condition.
“For one, excess weight can cause more stress on the joint which may increase wear and tear on the joints as well as repetitive joint stress and loading from overuse, injury or accident or trauma to the joint.
“It does not necessarily mean that age is the defining factor of developing OA, as those who expose to high impact and loading repetitively in their exercise/sports activity intensively, such as athletes undergoing constant training, are also susceptible to this condition, particularly among those who start at an early age.
“If an exercise or activity is carried out improperly, it can also cause trauma or injury to the joint that can lead to developing OA, ” he adds.
He recommends taking preventive measures to reduce the risk of OA, which includes lifestyle adjustments, such as reducing weight and adding strengthening and conditioning of the muscles in the lower body in the exercise/training regime.
“Also, you must be aware of your activities and take measures as much as possible to avoid overly impacting the joints. For one, make sure you warm up and cool down properly and add strength and conditioning in your exercise/training session or programme.”
“As age is also a factor, do ensure you keep up an active lifestyle incorporating low-impact exercises such as walking as well as continue to maintain muscle strength in general, particularly in the lower body, ” he advises.
Current treatment of OA includes intra-articular hyaluronic acid injections to the knee joint. This method of treatment entails an injection of hyaluronic acid directly into the affected knee to fill up the space between the bones that make up the joint.
It provides lubrication and cushioning for the joints, which leads to pain relief for the patient as well as increasing their mobility. This can help them regain their independence, as they are then able to move around easier on their own again.
The hyaluronic acid in the injection also serves to provide nutrients to the remaining healthy cartilage to help arrest further degeneration.
One upside of this treatment is that there are no systemic side effects. However, some patients may experience minimal or temporary local side effects, such as redness and tenderness at the injection site, barring infection during the procedure itself. As most hyaluronic acid now is no longer animal-based, the possibility of allergic reaction is also greatly reduced.
The injections differ in terms of elastoviscosity – low, medium and high molecular weight and is the factor in determining the number and frequency of injections needed.
Some considerations that are taken when it comes to deciding which type would be suitable are convenience – the higher the elastoviscosity the fewer times you need to go for an injection, the types of activities you generally carry out in your daily life as well as budget concerns.
“In addition to the injections, you also need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and include muscle strengthening and conditioning exercises into your routine to effectively address the condition.” says Dr Nahar.
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