You may know osteoarthritis as the painful condition that is caused by the wear and tear to our joints. With osteoarthritis – which is usually called just “arthritis” because it is so common – the daily stresses on our joints wear out the cartilage that cushions them.
In addition, to wear and tear over time, our genetic makeup, excess weight, and even certain health conditions can make osteoarthritis more likely. Arthritis usually progresses gradually over several years. You may not even realize that you have a problem early on because symptoms develop so slowly. Young athletes and older adults are all likely to develop this type of arthritis.
With more than 25 million Americans suffering from osteoarthritis, it’s helpful to understand this disease and the stages of its progression, and what you can do to keep it under control.
Stage I – Minor Arthritis
Damage to cartilage slowly develops at this stage. Any narrowing of the joint space between your bones will not be noticeable on most X-rays, and you probably won’t feel any pain or even any discomfort. In some X-rays, faint changes in bone structure may show up: The slow formation of small bony lumps (osteophytes) which you may later notice yourself.
Stage II – Mild Arthritis
At this second stage, you may begin to feel additional symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as pain, discomfort, and minor swelling. X-rays may show the early stages of thinning cartilage and the further formation of bone osteophytes, as well as a noticeable narrowing of the space between bones.
Stage III – Moderate Arthritis
Damage to the cartilage is now more pronounced. The gap between the bones has further narrowed, and cartilage loss is clearly seen in X-rays. Swelling at the joint may increase as inflammation triggers the production of extra lubricating (synovial) fluid in the joint.
Stage IV – Severe Arthritis
This is the most advanced stage of osteoarthritis. Expect cartilage loss and narrowing of the joint space to be almost complete.
This breakdown of joint tissues – especially bone and cartilage – creates additional friction between the bones in the joint, leading to more severe pain and inflammation as well as considerable loss of joint motion. Larger bony lumps may also be present, and bone hardening (sclerosis) is quite advanced, sometimes leading to bone deformation.
What Stage Is My Arthritis In?
Having a disease classified by stages can seem scary, but it’s helpful to know that grouping osteoarthritis into distinct stages helps your doctor select the best treatment for you. Osteoarthritis can be managed at all stages of the disease.
For example, using the classification system, your doctor may recommend using over-the-counter pain relief, low-impact exercise, or more advanced treatments – all the way up to joint replacement. The idea is to match the treatment with your needs and to ensure that you maintain a good quality of life, as pain-free as possible.
Orthopedic Doctors in Farmington Hills, MI
If you are having pain or stiffness in your fingers, knee, shoulder, or other joint, see an orthopedist who can give you a full evaluation. Orthopedic physicians are specially trained to quickly diagnose and properly treat issues of the musculoskeletal system, which involves all of the bones, muscles, and connective tissues throughout the body.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today by calling our friendly staff at (248) 474-5575 or request an appointment online now via our easy-to-use form. We look forward to helping you find a treatment that works for you so you can enjoy life!