What Is Osteoarthritis?

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (AH-stee-oh-ar-THREYE-tis) is the most common type of arthritis, especially among older people. Sometimes it is called degenerative joint disease.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects the cartilage. Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another. It also absorbs energy from the shock of physical movement. In osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, bone spurs, small growths called osteophytes, may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space. This causes more pain and damage.

People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and limited movement. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. For example, rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common form of arthritis, affects other parts of the body besides the joints. It begins at a younger age than osteoarthritis, causes swelling and redness in joints, and may make people feel sick, tired, and (uncommonly) feverish.

Who Has Osteoarthritis?

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