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Fact Sheet: Osteoarthritis

What’s the Issue?

Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis. It is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. As cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of bones and allows for easy movement, its breakdown causes bones to collide, resulting in stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.

Why Should I Care?

It hurts!! OA is painful and affects nearly 27 million Americans (Arthritis Foundation). Your chance of developing OA increases with age, though young people can get the disease too.

Symptoms usually begin after age 40, and after age 50, OA affects more women than men.

Loss of joint function as a result of OA, is a major cause of work disability and reduces a person’s quality of life.

Some causes of OA include:

  • Heredity
  • Obesity
  • Injury
  • Joint Overuse

What Can I Do?

Doctors may recommend that patients have X-rays or an MRI to diagnose OA and determine how much joint damage has occurred. They may also perform a procedure called joint aspiration, in which fluid is drained from the affected joints and examined. Blood tests may also be used.

People with advanced OA should seriously consider surgery, though other options are available. Treatment varies with severity of symptoms and the location of the pain and may include a combination of drugs, rest, physical therapy, surgery, etc.

Losing weight is an excellent way to reduce stress on your joints and improve your well-being.

More Resources

Source: Arthritis Foundation

Last Update: March 2010

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