Osteoarthritis: Early Diagnosis Improves Prognosis

Nariman Malik, BSc

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent rheumatic disease.1 It affects primarily the elderly and is rarely seen in individuals younger than 40. Osteoarthritis was believed to be an unavoidable consequence of aging, however, it is now believed to be a degenerative process that results from the interaction of metabolic, mechanical, genetic and other factors.

The disease is a heterogeneous disorder that affects different joints.2 Each affected joint has different clinical manifestations, prognoses, and patterns of progression. The prevalence of osteoarthritis increases with age. It is more common in women than in men.2 Women present more with osteoarthritis of the hand while men present more with problems of weight-bearing joints.3 In general, the management of osteoarthritis is coordinated by the family physician.2 If there is any doubt about the diagnosis or any complications, a rheumatologist or geriatrician should be consulted. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists are key members of the multidisciplinary management team critical to the long-term management of this chronic illness.


Osteoarthritis is a disorder of the hyaline articular cartilage on the bony surface of joints (see Figure 1).2 Hyaline articular cartilage is composed of type II collagen, proteoglycans, as well as chondrocytes and water.