Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Discovery Could Lead to Reversal of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs when cartilage between the joints wears down over time, which can cause pain and joint stiffness. It is the most common form of arthritis. The disease progresses gradually, and usually does not begin until after the age of 40.


Cartilage on the ends of your bones helps absorb the shock of movement. But when cartilage breaks down, this "cushion" degrades. Risk factors for osteoarthritis (sometimes spelled "osteoarthrosis") include being overweight, getting older, and experiencing joint injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The underlying cause of this cartilage breakdown is not completely understood, but is thought to involve both mechanical and molecular events in the joint, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Symptoms of osteoarthritis include: pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced motion in the joints. The most commonly affected joints are the hands, knees, hips or spine.

See your doctor if you have questions about osteoarthritis or experience joint pain or stiffness that lasts for more than a few weeks.

A graphic shows what's inside your joints, and what can go wrong.


There is no cure for osteoarthritis, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. You should speak with your doctor about which treatment options are right for you.

Medications used to treat osteoarthritis include: acetaminophen (like Tylenol) for mild to moderate pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can reduce inflammation, and narcotics for more severe pain.

Treatment can also include physical therapy, brace or shoe inserts, and weight management.

In cases in which this type of conservative management doesn't work, other options include: procedures such as cortisone shot injections, or surgery to realign bones or replace the joint

Lifestyle changes may also help with symptoms, such as exercising (with gentle exercises) to improve muscle strength around the joint, or loosing weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer

Rachael Rettner

Rachael has masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego. To find out what her latest project is, you can follow Rachael on .
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