Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints. It occurs when the cartilage (slippery tissue that covers the ends of the bone) between joints breaks down, and consequently, the joints don’t move as smoothly as it should. The condition is sometimes called arthrosis or osteoarthrosis. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by more tests and methods, such as medical history, a physical exam, x-rays, or lab tests; there is no single test for diagnosing this condition.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It can occur in any joint, but usually it affects your hands, knees, hips, big toes, or spine.
In severe osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes so thin that it doesn’t cover the ends of the bones; the bones start to wear due to the rubbing against each other, causing possible permanent damage to the joint. In some cases, this condition can change the shape of the joint, even forcing the bones out of the normal position.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis are:
- pains – during movement of the joint or at the end of the day
- stiffness – after rest, but this gets better as one starts moving
- swelling around the joint
- bone spurs (extra bits of bone that can form around the joint)
The symptoms can also vary due to different factors, such as changes in the weather, especially damp weather, or how active one has been.
Generally, symptoms of osteoarthritis develop slowly and get worse over time.
The cause of osteoarthritis is deterioration of the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones. This can occur due to:
- age – osteoarthritis usually starts in the late 40s onwards
- gender – osteoarthritis is more common and more severe in women
- obesity – being overweight is especially important when osteoarthritis affects the knees; it can increase the chances of osteoarthritis slowly becoming worse
- joint injury or joint surgery may lead to osteoarthritis in that joint later in life
- joint abnormalities – if born with abnormalities or developed them in childhood
- genetic factors – it is still not clear which genes are involved; however, Nodal osteoarthritis, which particularly affects the hands of middle-aged women, runs strongly in families; rare forms of osteoarthritis are linked with genes that affect collagen (an essential part of cartilage)
- other types of joint disease which can cause osteoarthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
The risk factors of osteoarthritis include:
- Joint injury or surgery
- Gender – affecting more often women
- Bone deformities
- Certain occupations
- Other diseases
Complications from osteoarthritis can occur overtime, when the condition progresses, causing severe pains so that everyday tasks become more difficult. In certain cases, doctors may recommend joint replacement surgery.