As the most reoccurring form of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects thousands of people in the United States. Osteoarthritis risk increases with age and obesity, and because of these increased risks, there’s also a huge demand for knee and hip replacements. It’s also the most common cause of mobility disability globally, causing years of disability and limited quality of life. This is because right now, medical and rehabilitation treatments for osteoarthritis aren’t effective at delaying the structural progression of this disease, nor are any approved by regulatory agencies. Early detection matters because medical researchers can potentially provide better alternatives to joint surgery and help prevent osteoarthritis from developing later on in life through early identification. 

Identifying Those At High Risk for Early OA

Recent studies have looked into the effects of the peripheral and central nervous systems on the development of osteoarthritis pain. These studies have suggested that by the time a person is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it’s occurring at its most advanced stages, leading to changes within the bone structure and other abnormalities. However, some studies have also shown that bone MRI abnormalities are present several years before the disease develops into its advanced stages. Although these structural changes are not known to be reversible yet, these changes become even more challenging with the development of nervous system-related changes alongside osteoarthritis. 

To better treat patients, it’s important to know what the symptoms of early osteoarthritis look like and what risks increase the likelihood of osteoarthritis later on in life. These risks include: 

The Feasibility of Identifying Early OA 

Early identification techniques need to be adapted to the circumstances surrounding the increased risk of osteoarthritis across the country. Understanding the risks is key to preventing future damage to provide these techniques. Focusing on unique groups and performing x-rays, radiographs, and MRI scans of specific areas of interest can help identify symptoms such as cartilage loss and can help provide better early treatments for prevention. To know whether or not you’re in one of these high-risk groups, speak with your orthopedist to learn more.