What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that happens when the tissues in the joint break down over time. It is the most common type of arthritis and is more common in older people.

People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and, after rest, stiffness (inability to move easily) for a short period of time. The most commonly affected joints include the:

  • Hands (ends of the fingers and at the base and ends of the thumbs).
  • Knees.
  • Hips.
  • Neck.
  • Lower back.

Osteoarthritis affects each person differently. For some people, osteoarthritis does not affect day-to-day activities. For others, it causes significant pain and disability.

Who gets osteoarthritis?

Anyone can get osteoarthritis, but it is more common as people age. Women are more likely than men to have osteoarthritis, especially after age 50.

Younger people can also develop osteoarthritis, usually because of a joint injury, a problem with joint structure, or a defect in joint cartilage.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of osteoarthritis often begin slowly and usually begin with one or a few joints. The common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain when using the joint, which may get better with rest. For some people, in the later stages of the disease, the pain may be worse at night.
  • Joint stiffness, usually lasting less than 30 minutes, in the morning or after resting for a period of time.
  • Swelling in and around the joint, especially after you use the area a lot.
  • Changes in the ability to move the joint.
  • Feeling that the joint is loose or unstable.

As your symptoms get worse over time, some activities may be difficult to do, such as:

  • Stepping up.
  • Getting on or off the toilet or in and out of a chair.
  • Gripping a pan.
  • Walking across a parking lot.

Pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis may lead you to feel tired, have problems sleeping, and feel depressed.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Changes in joint tissue can cause parts of the joint to break down and usually happens little by little over time. This does not happen because of simple wear and tear on the joints. Certain factors may make it more likely for you to develop the disease, including:

  • Aging.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • History of injury or surgery to a joint.
  • Overuse from repeated movements of the joint.
  • Joints that do not form correctly.
  • Family history of osteoarthritis.