Osteoarthritis

Overview

Osteoarthritis, which affects millions of people around the world, is the most common type of arthritis. This happens when the protective cartilage between the bones’ ends wears away.

Osteoarthritis can cause damage to any joint. However, it most often affects the joints of your hands, knees or hips.

Although osteoarthritis symptoms are manageable, the damage to joints cannot be reversed. Being active and maintaining a healthy weight can help slow the progression of osteoarthritis and improve joint function and pain.

Signs

Osteoarthritis symptoms can often appear slowly, and then get worse over time. The following are signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis:

  • Pain.It is possible for affected joints to hurt while or after moving.
  • StiffnessIt is possible for your joints to stiffen upon awakening, or while you are inactive.
  • Tenderness.Apply light pressure to the joint or close to it and you might feel a little tender.
  • You lose your flexibility.It is possible that you are unable to move your joint in its full range.
  • Grating sensation.The joint might cause a grating sensation and some popping or crackling.
  • Bone spurs.These bone fragments can grow around the affected joint, feeling like hard lumps.
  • SwellingThis could be due to soft tissue inflammation around your joint.

When should you see a doctor?

Your doctor should be consulted if you are experiencing persistent joint pain or stiffness.

Causes

Osteoarthritis is a gradual loss of cartilage, which cushions the ends and bones of your joints. Cartilage, a hard and slippery tissue that allows almost frictionless joint movement, is called osteoarthritis.

If the cartilage becomes too worn down, eventually bone will rub against bone.

Osteoarthritis is often referred to simply as “wear and tear” disease. Osteoarthritis can affect the entire joint, not just the cartilage. It can cause changes in bone and deterioration to connective tissues, which hold the joint together and link muscle to bone. It can also cause inflammation of the joint’s lining.

Risk factors

These factors can increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis:

  • Older ageAs we age, our risk of developing osteoarthritis is higher.
  • Sex.Osteoarthritis is more common in women than it is for men, although the reason isn’t known.
  • Obesity.Extra weight can lead to osteoarthritis in many ways. The more you are overweight, the higher your chance of developing it. An increase in weight can cause stress to weight bearing joints like your knees and hips. Fat tissue also produces proteins that can lead to inflammation around and in your joints.
  • Joint injuries.Osteoarthritis can be increased by injuries, such as those sustained while playing sports or in an accident. Even injuries that were not treated for years can increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Repeated stress to the joint.Osteoarthritis can develop if a repetitive strain on a joint is a result of your job or sport.
  • Genetics.Some people are predisposed to osteoarthritis.
  • Bone deformities.People are born with deformed or malformed cartilage.
  • Certain metabolic diseasesThese include diabetes, and hemochromatosis (an iron deficiency).

Complications

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that causes joint pain and stiffness over time, is often called chronic pain. It is possible for joint stiffness and pain to become so severe that it makes daily tasks more difficult.

The pain and disability that osteoarthritis causes can lead to depression and sleep problems.

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