What Is Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It
is also known as:
OA is a disease of aging. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),, OA affects more than 25 million men
and women over the age of 25 in the United States. That is almost 14 percent of
all adults. It is even more common in the elderly. More than one-third of
adults over the age of 65 suffer from OA.
OA is a leading cause of disability in adult Americans.
Men and women of any age can develop OA. However, the
demographics of OA change with age. According to the National
Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, before the
age of 45, OA is more common in men. After 45, it is more common in women.
Other risk factors for OA include:
- a job
that puts stress on the joints
Causes and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
OA is caused by a breakdown in the cartilage that covers the
joints. The protective tissue is damaged by age and repeated motion. This
increases the friction as the bones of the joint rub against each other. It can
also cause damage to the bone.
The most common symptoms of OA are pain and stiffness. OA
can occur in any joint. However, the most commonly affected joints are in the:
OA is different than rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is
an autoimmune disorder. The body’s immune system attacks joint tissue.
This leads to swelling and pain.
Cartilage is a tough but rubbery substance covering the end
of bones. It protects joints and allows bones to move easily against each other.
OA occurs when your cartilage begins to degrade. The degeneration exposes the
bones of the joint. Bone-on-bone contact can cause extreme pain. The loss of
cartilage may also affect the shape of the joint. This may keep it from
Severity of Osteoarthritis
OA varies in severity. Some people may have evidence of OA
during testing without any symptoms. Other people may develop severe pain and
According to the CDC, up to 80
percent of people with OA have some change in their mobility. One-quarter
cannot perform some activities related to daily life. These include problems:
in and out of chairs
In rare cases, damage from spinal OA can affect the function
of your bowels and bladder. Spinal OA can also cause tingling or weakness in
the arms and legs.
Long-Term Outlook for Osteoarthritis
OA is a slow-developing disease. It is a silent disorder
that can be difficult to diagnose until it begins to cause painful or
debilitating symptoms. Early OA is usually only diagnosed after an
accident or other incident that results in a fracture requiring an X-ray.
Over time, OA can cause:
range of motion
Treatment varies from individual to individual. Many people
can get symptom relief with options such as:
Other people may require surgical treatment. Surgery may
involve anything from cleaning up damaged joint tissue to joint replacement.