Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that affects both the cartilage and the bone and soft tissues of the joint. It belongs to the group of “Rheumatic Diseases” and, within this classification, it is considered a type of arthritis.
OA can occur in the hip, knees, hands, feet and spine, the first three being the most frequent ones. It produces pain and directly affects the mobility and autonomy of the person who suffers from it, with the psychological wear and tear that this entails. For the OA patient, the most common task can become a major obstacle due to the limitations associated with this pathology. In addition, it is linked to other co-morbidity problems such as hypertension or cardiovascular diseases, among others.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis are progressive and dilated over time. In a first stage, the pain appears associated with the movement and the effort to which the joint is submitted, although, in this first phase, the pain ceases with a period of rest. In a second stage, the worsening of the disease causes the pain to appear after rest and exercise, so that the discomfort is more continuous and practically constant. Another characteristic symptom of the disease is the progressive inability of joint function, leading -in the long run- to loss of mobility. With the evolution of the disease, deformations of the bones and muscular contractures can occur, aggravating the pain and atrophying the muscles that surround the joints.
Worldwide, an estimated 500 million people have osteoarthritis and in Spain the figure is of 7 million patients. In addition, it is the main cause of permanent disability and the third cause of temporary working place disability.
Currently, osteoarthritis represents an average annual cost of 4,738 million euros for the Spanish Health System (focusing only on knee and hip osteoarthritis) and, despite its prevalence, it remains an unknown disease to the majority of the population.
Despite its social impact, osteoarthritis is perceived as a distant pathology, only associated with old age. But the reality is that it not only affects the elderly. With the increase in life expectancy and the change in attitude of society to lead a more active lifestyle in which the practice of sport has increased, the cases of osteoarthritis are beginning to be detected in other younger risk groups such as postmenopausal women, athletes and even young people.