Published February 21, 2012
Affecting approximately 27 million Americans, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis,��reports the Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis affects many people’s daily lives by causing ongoing pain and��limiting mobility. While osteoarthritis is a lifelong disorder, treatment is available. Here is a guide to understanding the basics of osteoarthritis:
Also known as wear-and-tear arthritis,��osteoarthritis generally occurs due to aging and natural joint deterioration. Osteoarthritis can appear in any joint throughout the body, but it is most commonly found in the hips, hands, knees, neck and lower back. Cartilage is the rubbery tissue between your joints, which allows your joints to glide over one another without pain.��Over time or��after an injury, the cartilage begins to lose elasticity and weakens. When cartilage is worn down, the underlying bone may change shape,��negatively affecting its function. The bones may start to��painfully rub together,��or extra bone can grow around the joint. Inflammation of the joint lining can cause additional pain and damage to the cartilage.
Joint pain and stiffness are signs of osteoarthritis.��In addition to limited mobility in the joints, individuals with the disorder��may hear their joints crackle. The stiffness is usually worse in the morning, after a long stretch of inactivity. Pain may also be more severe after exercise or when pressure is placed on the joints.��The symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from person to person. On an individual basis,��the pain��may even��shift in severity over the course of any given��day.
Osteoarthritis generally results from normal wear as the joints are used repeatedly over the years. In fact, almost everyone will experience some symptoms of osteoarthritis by age 70, according to the National Institutes of Health. Additional risk factors can make an individual more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Women are more likely to develop the disorder after 55 years of age. Osteoarthritis also has a genetic component, as the disorder tends to run in families. Several lifestyle factors can also contribute to��greater wear and tear on the joints,��such as being overweight or participating in sports like football, soccer or basketball. Jobs that require long periods of squatting or kneeling, lifting or climbing stairs can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. Underlying health conditions may also cause joint damage, including a previous joint fracture or injury, abnormal bleeding conditions and other types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic, progressive disorder, which means that no permanent cure is available and the symptoms will likely worsen over time. Nonetheless, treatment can help alleviate painful symptoms and��delay further joint damage. Over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers can help soothe the pain associated with osteoarthritis. Pain relief can be topical and made up of ointments and creams applied directly to the skin. Medications��can be taken in pill or liquid form, while��certain prescription��pain relievers, such as corticosteroids, may be injected directly into the joint. Hot and cold compresses��might also reduce swelling and mitigate the pain.
Some individuals with osteoarthritis may undergo physical therapy to help restore muscle strength. Severe cases may require surgery to replace or repair the joints.