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Osteoarthritis (OA)

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a slowly progressive joint disease typically seen in middle‐age to elderly people. It occurs when the joint cartilage breaks down, causing the underlying bone to fail. OA symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, knobby swelling, cracking noises with joint movements and decreased function. It typically affects the joints of the hands and spine and weight‐bearing joints such as the hips and knees.

As a result, bones become thinner and structurally weaker. The disease is silent because there are no symptoms when you have osteoporosis, and the condition may come to your attention only after you break a bone. When you have osteoporosis, this can occur even after a minor injury, such as a fall.

The most common fractures occur at the spine, wrist and hip. Spine and hip fractures in particular may lead to chronic pain, long‐term disability and even death. The goal of treating osteoporosis is to prevent such fractures in the first place.

Who gets osteoarthritis?

OA typically occurs in patients age 40 and above. However, some risk factors might cause it to occur sooner. It affects people of all races and gender.

Points to remember

  • OA is the most common form of arthritis and can occur together with other types of arthritis.
  • Evaluation by your doctor will help confirm the diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan for your condition.
  • The goal of treatment in OA is to reduce pain and improve function.
  • At present, there is no available therapy that can reverse the damage of OA in the joint, but many studies are underway.
  • Although the joint changes are irreversible, only a small number of patients will progress to the point that requires joint replacement surgery.
  • OA symptoms can vary greatly among patients. Your rheumatologist can make the diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment recommendations for you.

Fast Facts

  • OA is the most common form of joint disease in humans and is a leading cause of disability among the elderly.
  • It typically occurs in the hand joints, spine, hips and knees.
  • It is caused by cartilage breakdown and subsequent bony changes of the joints.
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