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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, sometimes referred to as ‘wear and tear’, causes bones to thicken and stick out (spurs), swelling due to extra fluid in the joint and the thickening of capsules and ligaments (bands that hold the joint together). This is the body’s attempt at repairing the joint and it can sometimes occur relatively pain free; however, in severe cases, the cartilage can become so thin it doesn’t cover the end of the bone, changing the shape of the joint due to 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.

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.

Osteoarthritis 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 an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) 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, and 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?'

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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