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What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (also known as arthrosis, osteoarthrosis or OA) is a degenerative disease, which causes the cartilage that protects the ends of your bones to wear down, causing pain, swelling and problems with mobility. This is a result of the protective fluid in your joint losing its shock-absorbing abilities, causing bones to rub against each other.

The condition is sometimes referred to as 'wear and tear' and causes the bones to thicken and stick out, a symptom know as spurs. OA will also cause the capsules and ligaments, bands that hold the joint together, to thicken along with extra fluid in the joint resulting in swelling. These symptoms are a result of the body attempting to repair the joint; something that can sometimes occur relatively pain free. In severe cases, the cartilage can become so thin that it doesn't cover the end of the bone leaving it exposed and consequently changing the shape of the joint due to the excessive wearing away of the bone and the presence of bony spurs.

Any joint in the body can be affected by OA but the most common damage is found in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers and toes.

For further information on the condition, take a look at the "What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee" guide from Arthritis Research UK which offers a comprehensive review of the condition and how the charity can help sufferers.

Who can be affected?

There is no direct cause of OA and almost anyone can get the condition, including children. However, you’re more likely to suffer OA if you fall under any of the following categories:

  • You are a women
  • You are 40 years old or older
  • Your parents have had OA
  • You are overweight
  • You have had a previous joint injury
  • You are in a physically demanding job
  • Your joints have been affected by another disease, for example, gout or rheumatoid arthritis

For more information on the conditions that can cause OA, click here.

What Is Osteoarthritis - Osteoarthritis Knee - OA Knee Pain What Is Osteoarthritis? - Osteoarthritis Knee

Types of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. Other types of arthritis that cause pain and inflammation in the joints include:

To find out how the different types of arthritis can affect your joints, take a look at our Types of Arthritis page.

Common symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The most common symptoms of OA are pain and stiffness in the joint, with some people experiencing swelling, tenderness and a grating sound when using the damaged joint.

The severity of symptoms differs from person to person with some feeling mild discomfort that can come and go and others suffering continuous debilitating pain, which can make it difficult to go about their daily activities.

If you’re showing the symptoms of OA, you should make an appointment with your GP who can diagnose the condition and prescribe relevant treatment.

Read more here about the symptoms of OA.

What Is Osteoarthritis - Knee OA - OA Knee Pain Knee OA causes pain and stiffness in the affected knee joint

Diagnosing and treating Osteoarthritis

Your GP can usually diagnose OA based on your symptoms and a physical examination of your joints. However, your doctor may also ask for a blood test, X-ray or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. For more information on diagnosing OA, visit our ‘Diagnosis’ page.

Even though OA is a long-term, incurable condition, treatments can be prescribed to ease the symptoms, improve the condition and prevent it from getting worse. There are a number of treatment options available, including non-surgical solutions, such as exercising, bracing and medication, as well as surgical solutions, like arthroscopy, tibial osteotomy and full knee replacements.

To find out more about the different types of treatment available for OA, take a look at ‘What are my Options?'

What Is Osteoarthritis - Osteoarthritis Of The Knee - OA Knee Pain An x-ray or MRI can be used to help diagnose osteoarthritis of the knee

Useful Links

There are multiple studies available online relating to osteoarthritis.

Visit https://www.pubmed.de/gateway/nlm-pubmed/ and use the search term “knee osteoarthritis therapy” (with over 800 pages of results).

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​5 most important questions to ask your doctor about OA


We all experience aches and pains from time to time. Normally this isn’t a problem. However, when pains become regular they become a cause of concern. Recurring pain or discomfort in the joints may be indications of the onset of osteoarthritis – a condition which, as we age, gradually damages the surfaces of the joints so the joint doesn’t move as smoothly.

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​What are the best sources of vitamin C?


We all require vitamin C to maintain good health, and luckily, it's one of the easier vitamins for us to take in through our diets. Vitamin C is found in a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, meaning even the fussiest eaters should be able to find something to their taste. Vitamin C is beneficial to us in all kinds of ways, including helping to maintain our cartilage and blood vessels. It also helps our bodies create dopamine, ATP, tyrosine and peptide hormones. One of the things vitamin C is perhaps best known for is its antioxidant properties. It actually helps reduce oxidative stress to your body, and is even thought to help lower your risk of cancer. This is a pretty impressive list of benefits for a vitamin often given less attention than many others, in the media and health articles.

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​What to expect following knee replacement surgery


There are broadly two different types of knee replacement surgery. These are known as partial (sometimes called unilateral) knee replacement, and total or full knee replacement. You may also hear knee replacement being referred to as arthroplasty. Your surgeon will decide which option is best for you depending upon the state of your knee. Partial knee replacement is less invasive and involves less downtime, so if this is a possibility for you, your surgeon will always prefer to choose this option. However, partial knee replacements run a greater risk of the need for revision surgery, so your surgeon will carefully weigh this risk against the short-term benefits.

Treatments for Osteoarthtitis


It has been estimated that the number of people in the UK with osteoarthritis is around 8.75 million with almost half that figure suffering from knee OA. This means that a third of the population aged 45 and older have sought treatment for their condition.

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What are the long term effects of pharmaceuticals in managing osteoarthritis?


​Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects your joints. It is caused by everyday wear and tear rather than any specific immune condition, but it is still painful and can be debilitating. It is caused when the cartilage that covers and protects the ends of your bones, where they join, becomes roughened and thickened. The bone underneath the cartilage also thickens, as do the ligaments, the synovium (the inner layer of the joint capsule) and the capsule itself. Sometimes extra synovial fluid is produced, which causes the joint to swell.

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What are the long term effects of having knee replacement surgery?


Knee replacement surgery, also known as arthroplasty, involves replacing a damaged, diseased or worn knee joint with an artificial joint. It is an increasingly common surgery, with the majority of patients aged between 60 and 80. There are an increasing number of younger patients undergoing this surgical procedure, however, meaning that more and more people are dealing with the long-term effects.

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What are the top super foods to look out for in 2018?


Superfoods should be incorporated into your daily meals and snacks for optimum results, and should be treated as a regular part of your diet rather than just eaten occasionally when you're on a health kick. All the superfoods in this article are readily available, easy to cook, and complement a number of popular everyday dishes. There's no reason to change your eating habits in order to incorporate superfoods into your diet - most meals can benefit from the addition of one or two of the superfoods from our list.

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​What are the most popular treatment options for hip osteoarthritis?


Hip osteoarthritis is a condition that results in the degeneration of cartilage in the hip joint area. When cartilage is lost, friction increases and leads to pain and stiffness. The condition is fairly common and affects around 11% or the population over the age of 45. There is a range of treatment options available to sufferers. However, every treatment has its strengths and weaknesses, and these should be considered carefully.

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​Is surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee becoming less popular?


The pain of osteoarthritis of the knee can be almost unbearable, and as one of the most common forms of joint problems, it affects a huge number of patients every year. Eventually, when the knee joint becomes severely damaged, the only real solution is surgery, but there are plenty of options available to sufferers before reaching that point.