Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a chronic, degenerative, joint disease that affects mostly middle-aged and older adults. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Although it can occur in any joint, usually it affects the hands, knees, hips, or spine. The disease is also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease.

Illustration of an Arthritic Hip Joint
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What causes osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can be classified as primary or secondary. Primary osteoarthritis has an unknown cause, while secondary osteoarthritis is caused by another disease, infection, injury, or deformity. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joint. As the cartilage wears down, the bone ends may thicken, forming bony growths or spurs that interfere with joint movement. In addition, bits of bone and cartilage may float in the joint space and fluid-filled cysts may form in the bone, limiting joint movement. Several risk factors are associated with osteoarthritis, including the following:

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain after overuse of a joint or prolonged inactivity of a joint. Symptoms of osteoarthritis usually develop slowly over many years. The following are the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis. However each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of osteoarthritis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, the most common way to diagnose osteoarthritis in a joint is by X-ray.

Treatment for osteoarthritis

Specific treatment for osteoarthritis will be determined by your doctor based on:

The goals of treatment for osteoarthritis are to reduce joint pain and stiffness, and improve joint movement. Treatment may include:

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Online Resources of Arthritis & Other Rheumatic Diseases

 

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