Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that typically affects joints in the knees, hip, hand, feet, and spine. It is the most common form of arthritis.
- Older age. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in older adults.
- Women. Osteoarthritis occurs more often in women than in men, (although more men are affected when osteoarthritis occurs in people younger than age 45).
- Obesity. Being overweight increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Joint injuries. Sports injuries or occupational repetitive stress can lead to osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis begin gradually and worsen slowly over time. Osteoarthritis pain is generally described as:
- Aching or stiffness
- Worsening during activity and improving when at rest
- Occurring intermittently
- Causing a grating sensation when the joint is moved
- Bony growths can occur on the margins of joints
Osteoarthritis is usually diagnosed based on a physical exam and the results of x-rays. In some cases, the doctor may take a sample of synovial fluid from the joint.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis but treatment can reduce pain and improve flexibility, joint movement, and quality of life. Treatment options include:
- Lifestyle modifications and non-drug approaches such as exercise, weight loss, and physical therapy
- Medications, which include mild pain relievers such as acetaminophen, corticosteroid injections, and hyaluronic acid injections
- Surgery may be considered for severe osteoarthritis that is not helped by other treatments
Review Date: 06/16/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.