Osteoarthritis: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to osteoarthritis.

Q: Will a change of diet improve my osteoarthritis?

A: Research does not indicate that modifying one’s diet or eating larger amounts of certain foods will prevent OA or reverse its effects. Yet it is prudent to control obesity by limiting calories, opting for healthy eating habits, and cutting down on the intake of fatty foods. Some changes in body chemicals related to painful inflammation can be initiated by replacing red meats with fish and by using certain vegetable oils. Some people believe that ‘acid foods’ cause arthritis. This is not the case. In addition, alcohol does not affect OA, although alcoholism can damage bone and be a secondary cause of OA.

Q: I have broken my knee twice playing football. Will I develop osteoarthritis in that joint?

A: It is possible. Joint trauma is known to be a factor in the development of OA. Furthermore, if a bone is broken near a joint, there is a greater likelihood of developing OA in the joint itself.

Q: My stomach is easily upset. Will arthritis medicine upset my stomach or give me an ulcer?

A: Make sure that your physician is aware of your stomach problems so that he or she can prescribe a pain reliever that does not irritate the stomach or cause bleeding from or ulcers in the stomach, which these medications can sometimes do. Suitable choices may be an aspirin-free pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, or an NSAID that causes fewer GI symptoms (such as salsalate). As an alternative, the physician may prescribe another medication to lessen the side effects of NSAIDs. It also may be beneficial to switch to the new COX-2 inhibitors that significantly lessen the chance of stomach problems.

Q: Will moving to a different climate improve my osteoarthritis?

A: It is well known that arthritis sufferers often feel more joint pain in damp locations, just before it rains, or sometimes during humid periods. However, OA occurs in all climates. The effect of the weather really is a temporary effect on symptoms and does not actually affect the disease. This means that climate does not improve or worsen arthritis, although it may affect the symptoms.

Q: I have osteoarthritis in my hip joint. Will I need surgery to correct it?

A: Very likely, no. Most people with osteoarthritis never need to have surgery. Surgery only becomes an option if the person suffers from (1) severe pain that is not relieved by available treatment methods, (2) a dramatically impaired ability to perform daily activities, or (3) marked joint instability. Simpler treatments must be tried before surgery is considered.

Q: Both my mother and father had osteoarthritis. Am I likely to get it too?

A: Heredity appears to play a role in osteoarthritis, although the exact causes remain unknown. In a few people scientists have found an abnormal gene that causes the early breakdown of joint cartilage. This eventually may lead to the development of osteoarthritis. However, it doesn’t at all follow that you’ll develop OA in a joint just because a parent has it.

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