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Don’t suffer in silence from osteoarthritis

“Osteoarthritis is a huge problem in the United States,” says Stephen Smith, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. “It’s just getting worse as baby boomers grow older.” Osteoarthritis is known as “wear and tear” arthritis, while rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints.

It occurs when cartilage in the body’s joints begins to deteriorate, leading to joint pain, stiffness and swelling. It most commonly affects the knees, hands, fingers, spine and hips, though it can occur in any joint. Osteoarthritis can be caused by hereditary factors or previous injury, though it can occur for no reason at all.

“The cartilage starts to go away, and then the bones start to rub against each other,” Dr. Smith explains. No only can osteoarthritis cause painful symptoms, it can also impact a person’s activity level. “It can affect your ability to exercise and if you can’t exercise, you start to gain weight,” he says. “It leads to a poorer quality of life.”

Treatment options for osteoarthritis

Dr. Smith says there are two options for treating osteoarthritis:

  • Conservative pain and symptom management with medication, exercise and physical therapy.
  • Joint replacement surgery.

While surgery may be the best option once osteoarthritis has progressed, Dr. Smith says the decision should not be made lightly. “I tell people all the time, ‘You should put off any kind of surgery for as long as you can,’” he says. “It has to be a pretty major problem for you to consider surgery. “You hear a lot about minimally-invasive surgery, but for me, it’s still a big deal,” he explains. “But these days, we are very good at this surgery.”

Post-surgery, patients should expect to spend a few days in the hospital. They will not be able to drive for several weeks and will need to use a walker or crutches. Full recovery takes about six to eight weeks.

“A lot of people suffer from arthritis, but it’s important to know there are treatments,” says Dr. Smith. “People need to seek help because there is a lot of help out there. You don’t have to suffer in silence – there are things that can be done about your pain.”

To learn more about osteoarthritis treatment, visit Piedmont Orthopaedic Services.

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