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Osteoarthritis: Online Diagnosis and Treatment

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Commonly called “wear and tear” arthritis, it occurs when cartilage is lost in joints over time. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain and stiffness, decreased range of motion, and joint swelling and enlargement.1 Osteoarthritis, while common, varies in severity from asymptomatic to disabling. It can occur in any joint but most commonly affects the hands, spine, knees, hips, and feet.2

Osteoarthritis affects about 3.8% of the world’s population, increasing to over 10% in people over the age of 60.3 Osteoarthritis affects over 32.5 million U.S. adults, and arthritis-related disability impacts over 11.6 million Americans.

Medical care to treat osteoarthritis costs almost $65 billion annually, including 39 million doctor visits and more than half a million hospitalizations. Osteoarthritis accounts for about 90% of hip and knee replacements.3 The prevalence of osteoarthritis is expected to increase due to the aging population and the worldwide obesity epidemic.4

Scheduling a consultation with a virtual doctor on the Telegra MD telehealth platform for osteoarthritis diagnosis and treatment is simple and convenient. You will receive a diagnosis, a treatment protocol, and an appropriate online prescription to treat osteoarthritis. Telehealth for osteoarthritis treatment makes it easy to consult with a virtual doctor and receive prescription medication to treat your osteoarthritis quickly and easily, even if you don’t have insurance. Schedule an appointment today to learn whether you might have osteoarthritis and receive a personalized treatment plan to improve joint function and get you back to living life to its fullest.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a chronic joint disease that affects millions of people. It is due to the progressive breakdown of cartilage lining the joints. Cartilage is a protective tissue that provides a smooth lining over the surface of bones. It reduces friction, allows for smooth joint movement, and protects the ends of bones from damage.

As cartilage breaks down and exposes bone to stress and friction, bone will undergo structural changes, such as forming bone spurs. These bony outgrowths limit range of motion and cause pain.

Tissues surrounding the joint may also become inflamed. The synovium is a fluid-producing lining on the surface of the joint. Synovial fluid lubricates and nourishes cartilage lining the joint. When the synovium becomes inflamed, it produces excess fluid, which contributes to joint swelling and instability.

As the joint swells, connective tissues supporting the joint may become stretched and weaken. The affected joint may become more unstable.4,5

What Are The Common Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis?

The primary symptoms associated with osteoarthritis are joint pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.

Pain

Joint pain from osteoarthritis is typically described as intermittent and severe or a progressive background, aching pain. It can be classified into one of these three progressive stages:6

  • Stage 1: A predictable, sharp pain that occurs in response to a sudden movement. The pain limits high-impact activities.
  • Stage 2: Increasingly predictable pain associated with unpredictable joint locking and stiffness. The pain becomes more constant and affects everyday activities such as walking and climbing stairs.
  • Stage 3: Constant dull or aching pain with episodes of unpredictable, intense pain that lead to exhaustion. This pain has a significant impact on quality of life.

In a focus group that explored osteoarthritis pain (n=143), Hawker et al. reported that participants used the following descriptors to describe osteoarthritis pain.6

CategoryExample descriptors
Mild discomfortAche, hurts, sore, nagging, throbbing, uncomfortable, gnawing, discomfort, tenderness, dull
Severe painSharp, stabbing, shooting, knife-like, needle-like, brings tears to your eye, excruciating, unbearable
Frequency and durationEvery day, consistent in the morning, comes and goes, constant, gradual, there all the time, background pain
PredictabilityUnsure when the pain will come on, unsure how long the pain episode will last, pain “comes out of nowhere” sometimes
Night painSharp pain comes on at night, difficulty getting to sleep, that’s when it really aches, just lie awake hurting
Neuropathic painBurning, pins and needles, numbness, like sitting too close to the fire
Effect on moodParalyzing, terrorizing, want to scream, want to cry, you get mad about the pain
Other symptomsWeakness, grinding, stiffness, seize up, gives way, locking, unstable
Hawker GA et al.

Other Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Pain and joint limitations from osteoarthritis are associated with these symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depressed or anxious mood
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Lack of energy

According to the National Institute on Aging, osteoarthritis symptoms can also vary depending on the affected joint.

  • Hands: small bony knobs may develop on the finger joints. This can cause the joints to become enlarged and gnarled, causing stiffness and numbness.
  • Knees: stiffness, swelling, and pain can make movement difficult. You may hear a grinding or scraping noise as you move your knee. Over time, your knee may begin to buckle.
  • Hips: pain and stiffness make movement difficult. Pain may radiate to the groin, inner thigh, buttocks, or knee.
  • Spine: stiffness and pain in the neck or lower back can cause weakness, tingling, and numbness in the arms and legs.
A graphic of a knee joint

Can Osteoarthritis Be Treated Through Telehealth?

Consulting a medical professional via telehealth is a convenient way to diagnose and treat osteoarthritis. You can schedule an online medical consultation appointment with a virtual doctor using the Telegra MD platform and receive a personalized treatment plan. Your virtual doctor can give you tips on managing your symptoms and call your online prescription to a local pharmacy. Online doctors who prescribe osteoarthritis treatment medications provide 24-hour appointment access, which means you can expect doctor access whenever you need it, leading to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Are Some People at Increased Risk for Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a complicated disease that affects people in different ways. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:2,4,7

  • Genetics/family history of osteoarthritis
  • Aging
  • Female sex
  • Occupation
  • Overweight or obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal joint strength lines
  • Poor muscle strength
  • High-intensity exercise
  • Overuse injuries
  • History of joint injury or surgery

About half of people sustaining a major knee injury develop osteoarthritis.7 Moderate exercise over a lifetime has not been found to increase osteoarthritis risk.8

an athlete fell on the track

How Do You Diagnose Osteoarthritis?

I commonly made an osteoarthritis diagnosis based on your symptoms and medical history. National clinical guidelines state that radiography is not required to make the diagnosis.7

Your doctor may request X-rays or lab tests if the diagnosis is unclear. X-rays provide an image of the joint and can indicate signs of osteoarthritis, such as bone damage, spurring, and decreased joint space.

How Do You Treat Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis treatment is focused on alleviating pain and restoring joint function. A combination of lifestyle modifications, over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, therapies, and surgery may be used.

  • Analgesics: Acetaminophen; typical first-line therapy for pain control for mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis pain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen, piroxicam, celecoxib, diclofenac; added if analgesics do not provide adequate pain relief; reduce inflammation
  • Intra-articular corticosteroids: triamcinolone acetonide, methylprednisolone, betamethasone; steroid injections can reduce inflammation
  • Opioids: Tramadol, Oxycodone; used to treat severe pain; high incidence of side effects
  • Muscle relaxants: dantrolene, carisoprodol, baclofen; relieves muscle spasms and cramps
  • Antidepressant: duloxetine; also approved to treat chronic pain
  • Topicals: capsaicin, topical NSAIDS

Lifestyle and other changes that can reduce symptoms from osteoarthritis or delay its onset include:

  • Increasing physical activity
  • Targeted muscle-strengthening exercises
  • Weight loss
  • Use of braces, canes, and crutches
  • Heat and cold therapy

Oral or dietary supplements that may improve osteoarthritis symptoms include:3

  • Tumeric
  • Ginger extract
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Vitamin D
The word osteoarthritis surrounded by treatment options

When Should You See a Doctor for Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is often considered to be a disease associated with older age, but it develops much earlier than originally thought. Osteoarthritis is among the top 20 diseases affecting people in the 40 to 45 age group.8 If you have moderate-to-severe joint pain that lasts more than a day or so, persistent pain of any degree, or recurring pain, contact your doctor for an evaluation and treatment plan.

Telehealth for osteoarthritis is the perfect option. You can schedule an online appointment with a virtual doctor using the Telegra MD platform and receive a diagnosis based on osteoarthritis symptoms. Your virtual doctor can give you tips on preventing further joint damage and call in a prescription to a local pharmacy. Online doctors who treat osteoarthritis provide 24-hour appointment access, which means you can expect doctor access whenever you need it, leading to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Obtaining an osteoarthritis treatment plan after seeing a doctor online through telemedicine is similar to seeing your local doctor. In both cases, you would:

  • Make an appointment: Typically, appointments to see virtual doctors through telehealth are much easier to make and are more convenient than in-person appointments, as many telemedicine companies provide online telehealth services for osteoarthritis treatment at any time, day or night.
  • Provide a medical history: Whether completing forms in your local doctor’s office or online before consulting with your virtual doctor, you will need to provide a medical history.
  • Consult with your doctor: After reviewing your medical history forms, your virtual doctor will discuss your osteoarthritis treatment options.
  • Treatment: After deciding on an optimal and personalized treatment plan for osteoarthritis, your virtual doctor will transmit your prescriptions to your local pharmacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is osteoarthritis a type of autoimmune disease

No, osteoarthritis is classified as a degenerative joint disease caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage over time. It is not an autoimmune disease.

Can osteoarthritis be reversed through exercise?

Exercise can improve muscle strength, reduce pain, and improve joint stability. However, it cannot reverse joint damage that has already occurred.

Is there a cure for osteoarthritis?

Currently, there s no cure for osteoarthritis. However, contact a Telegra MD doctor to learn more about lifestyle modifications, therapies, and over-the-counter, and prescription medications that can relieve joint pain and stiffness, and improve range of motion.

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1. Hunter DJ, McDougall JJ, Keefe FJ. The symptoms of osteoarthritis and the genesis of pain. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2008 Aug;34(3):623-43. doi: 10.1016/j.rdc.2008.05.004. PMID: 18687276; PMCID: PMC2597216.

2. Osteoarthritis. (November 15, 2022). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved July 23, 2023, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoarthritis

3. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Management of Osteoarthritis of the Knee (Non-
Arthroplasty) Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline. Published
August 30, 2021 https://www.aaos.org/oak3cpg

4. Tong, L., Yu, H., Huang, X. et al. Current understanding of osteoarthritis pathogenesis and relevant new approaches. Bone Res 10, 60 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41413-022-00226-9

5. Salman, L.A., Ahmed, G., Dakin, S.G. et al. Osteoarthritis: a narrative review of molecular approaches to disease management. Arthritis Res Ther 25, 27 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-023-03006-w

6. Hawker GA, Stewart L, French MR, Cibere J, Jordan JM, March L, Suarez-Almazor M, Gooberman-Hill R. Understanding the pain experience in hip and knee osteoarthritis–an OARSI/OMERACT initiative. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008 Apr;16(4):415-22. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2007.12.017. Epub 2008 Mar 4. PMID: 18296075.

7. Allen KD, Golightly, YM. State of the evidence. Current Opinion in Rheumatology 27(3):p 276-283, May 2015. | DOI: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000161

8. Roos, E., Arden, N. Strategies for the prevention of knee osteoarthritis. Nat Rev Rheumatol 12, 92–101 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrrheum.2015.135

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