Osteoarthritis (OA) is an arthritis type that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage of one or more joints. The main areas, which are affected by OA, include fingers, spine and weight-bearing joints including hips, knees and feet.

The condition of osteoarthritis is typically characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a ‘cushion’ between the bones of the joints.

Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative arthritis and is widely accepted as the most common form of arthritis.


Incidence and Prominence

Osteoarthritis is known to affect over 20 million people in United States. Though OA occurs more frequently in older people, it is more common in men before the age of 45 and women after 55 years of age.

A higher incidence of osteoarthritis has been observed in the Japanese population, while South African blacks, East Indians and Southern Chinese are less affected.


Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis generally develops gradually and may start as soreness or stiffness in the affected areas. Pain may be moderate and intermittent. Here we list some of the most common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis:

• Feeling of soreness in joints after periods of overuse or inactivity.
• Stiffness after periods of rest, going away when the activity is resumed.
• Morning stiffness, lasting no more than 30 minutes.
• Loss of joint flexibility.
• Bony lumps on the middle or end joints of your fingers or the base of your thumb.
• Pain caused by the weakening of muscles surrounding the joint due to inactivity.
• Joint pain, that is usually less in the morning and worsens in the evening.
• Deterioration of coordination, posture and walking due to pain and stiffness.


Causes of Osteoarthritis

In osteoarthritis, the problem lies with the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in the joints. With time, the cartilage deteriorates and its smooth surface roughens.

Eventually, when the cartilage wears down completely, bones might start to rub against each other, causing the end of bones to become damaged and joints to become painful.

Some of the main causes of OA include:

• Age
• Obesity
• Genetics
• Muscle weakness
• Repeated trauma or surgery to the joint structures
• Abnormal joints at birth
• Peripheral neuropathy
• Crystal in joint fluid or cartilage
• Prolonged sports or occupational stress
• Gout
• Diabetes