Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people around the world. Often called wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time.
While osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips.
Osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time, and no cure exists. But osteoarthritis treatments can slow the progression of the disease, relieve pain and improve joint function.
Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
When to see a doctor
Arthritis of the spine
Osteoarthritis of the spine results in a narrowing of the spaces between the vertebrae. Bone spurs often form. When bone surfaces rub together, the vertebral joints (facets) and areas surrounding the ...
Osteoarthritis of the hip
The hip joint shown on the left side of the image is normal, but the hip joint shown on the right side of the image shows deterioration of cartilage and the formation of bone spurs due to ...
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints deteriorates over time. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits nearly frictionless joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the slick surface of the cartilage becomes rough. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone.
Factors that increase your risk of osteoarthritis include:
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that worsens over time. Joint pain and stiffness may become severe enough to make daily tasks difficult. Some people are no longer able to work. When joint pain is this severe, doctors may suggest joint replacement surgery.
Preparing for your appointment
While you may initially bring your concerns to your family doctor he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in joint disorders (rheumatologist).
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor will closely examine your affected joint, checking for tenderness, swelling or redness. He or she will also check the joint's range of motion. Your doctor may also recommend imaging and lab tests.
Treatments and drugs
There's no known cure for osteoarthritis, but treatments can help to reduce pain and maintain joint movement.
Surgical and other procedures
Gradual deterioration of cartilage that occurs in osteoarthritis is the most common reason for hip replacement surgery. Implanting an artificial joint eliminates pain and restores near-normal ...
Knee replacement surgery can repair damage from osteoarthritis or inflammatory conditions. The artificial joint has metal alloy caps for your thighbone and shinbone and high-density plastic to ...
Lifestyle and home remedies
Large grip knife for hand osteoarthritis
Large grip tools, such as a large grip knife, can make it easier to take care of everyday tasks if you have osteoarthritis in your hands. Some tools will need to be purchased at a specialty store. ...
Button tool for finger osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis in your fingers may make it painful to grasp small objects, such as buttons on your shirt. A button tool can make it easier on your joints. ...
People who aren't helped by medications for osteoarthritis pain sometimes turn to complementary and alternative medicine practices for relief. Common treatments that have shown some promise for osteoarthritis include:
Coping and support
Medications and other treatments are key to managing pain and disability, but another major component to treatment is your own attitude. Your ability to cope despite pain and disability caused by osteoarthritis often determines how much of an impact osteoarthritis will have on your everyday life. Talk to your doctor if you're feeling frustrated. He or she may have ideas about how to cope or refer you to someone who can help. In the meantime, try to:
Last Updated: 2011-10-13
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