Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a chronic condition associated with damage to the cartilage within the joints of the musculoskeletal system. While some forms of arthritis are known to affect internal organs, osteoarthritis only affects the joints.

Osteoarthritis occurs more frequently among populations of adults over the age of 60. Individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis at a young age typically sustained a joint injury that placed them at a higher risk.


Osteoarthritis is normally confined to joints, whereas the symptoms of some other types of arthritis may extend to other tissues such as organs. This condition is most prevalent in adults aged 60 years or more. Cases of osteoarthritis in younger individuals is also possible, but is normally related to direct damage to a joint through injury or similar events. This increases the risk of early-onset osteoarthritis.

Other characteristics associated with osteoarthritis may include Heberden’s nodes, or the accumulation of additional tissue around the joints of the digits (fingers or toes), forming protuberances. These may be clearly visible through the skin and appear as a swelling of the bone at the end of the digit. Heberden’s nodes are associated with reduced mobility and possible pain of the affected joint.

Osteoarthritis Causes

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition affecting the joints. The end of each bone, where it converges with another bone, is coated with a soft, compressible tissue called cartilage. Cartilage helps the joint glide smoothly, prevents the two bones from rubbing together, and acts as a shock absorber.

This cartilage can become damaged as a result of wear and tear over a number of years or as the result of a specific injury. If the damage to the cartilage is bad enough, there is a high risk of bone rubbing directly onto bone.

This leads to significant pain, inflammation, and a loss in flexibility in the joint itself. Additionally, damaged cartilage may break off into the bursa, which is the sac of synovial fluid found around the joint. The most common joints that are affected by osteoarthritis include the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

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Osteoarthritis Treatments

There is no cure for osteoarthritis. The primary goal for the treatment of osteoarthritis is providing pain relief and improving joint function.