Which Comes First: Obesity Or Arthritis?

    A woman wearing a hospital gown smiling while weighing herself.(BlackDoctor.org) — Obesity-related diseases are becoming a quickly increasing problem in the Western world, the result of an extreme obesity epidemic that now rivals hunger-related health problems as a primary cause of worldwide morbidity and mortality. Many common diseases have been linked to obesity, including osteoarthritis (OA). Although OA is the most prevalent joint disorder, obesity is also known to be a factor in developing other musculoskeletal conditions that can result in joint pain and disability.

    OA is a common condition, affecting 70% of senior citizens who are older than 65. This accounts for a staggering 27 million residents of the United States—12.1% of adult Americans. The world’s population is aging and becoming overweight at a fast pace—two of the major risk factors for developing OA. The social and economic burden resulting from the prevalence of OA is distressingly high.

    The symptom most strongly associated with OA is joint pain, which is the result of a loss of articular cartilage. Pain is most often experienced in the hip, knee, and hand joints. Those still in the first stages of OA only have pain when they use the affected joint, but as the disease progresses the pain becomes more constant. Eventually sufferers experience pain even when their joints are resting and when they are asleep.

    Treatment: Arthritis & Obesity

    Treatments for OA are focused on pain relief, and there are both surgical and non-surgical options available. Surgery to treat OA is a last resort for those whose symptoms are severe and resistant to other forms of treatment. For most OA sufferers, symptoms can be controlled through the use of medication, proper nutrition, acupuncture, and changes in lifestyle.

    A pharmacological approach to OA therapy is common, achieving pain relief through the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Advil, Aleve, Orudis) and analgesics (Tylenol). However, a number of people experience side effects when using these medications, most frequently gastrointestinal problems.

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