What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is also called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Almost everyone is affected by it to some extent as they grow older. It most frequently occurs in weight-bearing joints, mainly knees, hips, and ankles. This form of arthritis slowly and gradually breaks down the cartilage that covers the ends of each bone in a joint. Normally, cartilage acts as a shock absorber, providing a smooth surface between the bones. But with osteoarthritis, the smooth surface becomes rough and pitted. In advanced stages, it may wear away completely. Without their normal gliding surfaces, the bones grind against one another, causing inflammation, pain and restricted movement. Bone spurs may form.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
The number one symptom is pain. The pain is caused by irritation and pressure on nerve endings, as well as muscle tension and fatigue. The pain can progress from mild soreness and aching with movement to severe pain, even when resting. The second symptom is loss of easy movement, such as bending or rising normally. Morning stiffness is a problem for many people. This lack of mobility, in turn, often causes the muscles serving the knee or hip to weaken, and overall body coordination suffers.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
A simple weight-bearing X-ray and examination by a skilled orthopedic doctor will determine if you have osteoarthritis. Time-consuming and costly diagnostic procedures are not required.
What is the treatment for osteoarthritis?
There is no cure for arthritis, but the past decade has seen dramatic new ways to manage the pain, lack of mobility, and fatigue that are among its most disabling symptoms.
What about surgery?
For more information about arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation.
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