What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people around the world. Often called wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time.
While osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips.
Osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time, and no cure exists. But osteoarthritis treatments can slow the progression of the disease, relieve pain and improve joint function.
What are the Symptoms?
Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Pain. Your joint may hurt during or after movement.
- Tenderness. Your joint may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it.
- Stiffness. Joint stiffness may be most noticeable when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
- Loss of flexibility. You may not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
- Grating sensation. You may hear or feel a grating sensation when you use the joint.
- Bone spurs. These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, may form around the affected joint.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints deteriorates over time. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits nearly frictionless joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the slick surface of the cartilage
becomes rough. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone.
Risk Factors that increase your risk of osteoarthritis include:
Older age. The risk of osteoarthritis increases with age.
- Sex. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, though it isn’t clear why.
- Bone deformities. Some people are born with malformed joints or defective cartilage, which can increase the risk of osteoarthritis
- Joint injuries. Injuries, such as those that occur when playing sports or from an accident, may increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
- Obesity. Carrying more body weight places more stress on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Cartilage depends on joint use for its nutrition.
- Certain occupations. If your job includes tasks that place repetitive stress on a particular joint, that may predispose that joint toward eventually developing osteoarthritis.