Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is a chronic degenerative joint disease that affects mostly middle-aged and older adults. Osteoarthritis causes the breakdown of joint cartilage. It can occur in any joint, but it most often affects the hands, knees, hips, or spine.
Osteoarthritis can be classified as primary or secondary. Primary osteoarthritis has no known cause. Secondary osteoarthritis is caused by another disease, infection, injury, or deformity. Osteoarthritis starts with the breakdown of cartilage in the joint. As the cartilage wears down, the bone ends may thicken and form bony growths (spurs). Bone spurs interfere with joint movement. Bits of bone and cartilage may float in the joint space. Fluid-filled cysts may form in the bone and limit joint movement.
The risk factors of osteoarthritis include:
The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain after overuse or inactivity of a joint. Symptoms usually develop slowly over years. Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each person, and may include:
The symptoms of osteoarthritis can look like other health conditions. Make sure to see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The process starts with a medical history and a physical exam. You may also have X-rays. This test uses a small amount of radiation to create images of bone and other body tissues.
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. The goal of treatment is to reduce joint pain and stiffness, and improve joint movement. Treatment may include:
Talk with your healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines.
Because osteoarthritis causes joints to degenerate over time, it can cause disability. It can cause pain and movement problems that make a person less able to do normal daily activities and tasks.
Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, it is important to help keep joints functioning by reducing pain and inflammation. Work on a treatment plan with your healthcare provider that includes medicine and therapy. Work on lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life. Lifestyle changes include:
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider: