What does Osteoarthritis Mean?

By  , Expert Content
Jan 19, 2013

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that results from wear and tear of the joint tissue and causes joint pain and stiffness. It can affect any joint in the body but the joints that are commonly affected include:

  • knees
  • hips
  • hands
  • big toe.


[Read: How to Prevent Osteoarthritis]


The characteristic features of osteoarthritis include;

  • mild inflammation of the tissues in and around the joints (which causes pain and swelling around the joint)
  • damage to cartilage (this is the strong, smooth surface which covers the bones and allows joints to move easily and without friction)
  • bony growths (called spurs) develop around the edge of the joints.

Who develops osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis affects older adults (people over 50 years of age) and probably everyone over 60 years of age has some symptoms, but only some people develop noticeable or severe symptoms. It occurs more commonly in women than in men. Some other risk factors for OA are joint trauma, obesity, and repetitive joint use. In younger people osteoarthritis, often develops as a complication of an injury or another joint condition.


[Read: Treatment for Osteoarthritis]


The severity of symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary greatly from person to person. The symptoms also depend on the affected joint. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but early and accurate diagnosis is important for appropriate treatment and prevention of irreversible damage and disability. People with mild symptoms can often be managed with life style changes such as exercise, weight loss or use assistive devices such as wearing suitable footwear. However, in more advanced cases of osteoarthritis, other treatment such as medications (painkillers) and surgery may be needed.


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