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What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a very common condition that can affect any joint in the body. It causes the cartilage in a joint to become stiff and lose its elasticity, making it more susceptible to damage. Over time, the cartilage may wear away in some areas, greatly decreasing its ability to act as a shock absorber. As the cartilage deteriorates, tendons and ligaments stretch, causing pain. If the condition worsens, the bones could rub against each other. It can occur in any joint. However, the most commonly affected areas of the body include the:

  • Hands.
  • Fingers.
  • Shoulder.
  • Spine, neck, or lower back.
  • Hips.
  • Knees.


Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain: Affected joints might hurt during or after movement.
  • Stiffness: Joint stiffness might be most noticeable upon awakening or after being inactive.
  • Tenderness: The joint might feel tender when you apply light pressure to or near it.
  • Loss of flexibility: You might not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
  • Grating sensation: You might feel a grating sensation when you use the joint, and you might hear popping or crackling.
  • Bone spurs: These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, can form around the affected joint.
  • Swelling: This might be caused by soft tissue inflammation around the joint.

Risk Factors

Factors that can increase your risk of osteoarthritis include:

  • Older age: The risk of osteoarthritis increases with age.
  • Gender: For most joints, osteoarthritis is more common and more severe in women.
  • Obesity: Increased weight adds stress to weight-bearing joints, such as your hips and knees. Also, fat tissue produces proteins that can cause harmful inflammation in and around your joints.
  • Joint abnormalities: If you were born with abnormalities or developed them in childhood, it can lead to earlier and more severe osteoarthritis than usual.
  • Repeated stress on the joint: If your job or a sport you play places repetitive stress on a joint, that joint might eventually develop osteoarthritis.
  • Genetics. Some people inherit a tendency to develop osteoarthritis.
  • Bone deformities: Some people are born with malformed joints or defective cartilage.
  • Certain metabolic diseases: These include diabetes and a condition in which your body has too much iron.

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