What Is Osteoarthritis?

Many people wonder, "What is osteoarthritis?" This condition is a common joint disease in which cartilage has worn away, which allows bones to rub together. Common symptoms include joint pain and limited movement. The disease can be treated through exercise, drugs, alternative therapies, and, in some cases, surgery.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects cartilage. Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over each other. It also helps absorb the shock of movement.
In a person with osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together. The rubbing causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, bone spurs may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, which causes more pain and damage.

What Causes It?

The cause of osteoarthritis is unknown. Some factors that might increase your risk of developing it include:
  • Being overweight
  • Getting older
  • Joint injury
  • Stresses on the joints from certain jobs and playing sports.
(Click Causes of Osteoarthritis for more information on these risk factors.)

What Are the Symptoms?

People with osteoarthritis often have joint pain and reduced motion. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs most often in older people. However, younger people sometimes get the condition, too -- primarily from joint injuries.
(Click Osteoarthritis Symptoms for more information, including specific symptoms affecting the knee and hip.)
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Osteoarthritis Information

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