Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the more than 120 forms of arthritis which can occur in patients.

Osteoarthritis, also known as OA, osteoarthrosis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD), is the type of arthritis that almost everyone develops in their lifetime.

It is a form of arthritis that develops gradually, usually occurring sometime after the age of 45.

OA is usually chronic in nature but fortunately occurs most frequently as a relatively mild condition. Some patients, however develop more severe symptoms requiring treatment and even joint replacement.

Who develops osteoarthritis?

  • Osteoarthritis is seen in both females and males in a 3:2 female/male ratio.
  • Occurrence is usually noted between the ages of 45-90, and affects more than 20.7 million Americans today.

What exactly is osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis involving the cartilage of a joint. The cartilage of a joint is a tough, gristle-like material which is found on the ends of the bones. It forms the surface of the joint on either side.

Cartilage is durable and somewhat elastic. It does not have a blood supply and therefore gets its oxygen from the joint fluid surrounding it. When you use a joint, fluid and waste products are removed from the cartilage by the pressure involved. When pressure is relieved, oxygen and other nutrients are returned to the cartilage.

Cartilage also has no nerve supply. It is this characteristic that allows large forces to be transferred without pain. Over time, the cartilage may become worn. The bony surface of the joint may begin to grate against the bone on the other side and the elasticity of the cartilage may be decreased. Eventually the cartilage may wear away entirely. This cartilage deterioration is, in fact, what defines osteoarthritis. Unlike some other types of arthritis, OA does not affect the whole body. However, the changes which it can cause may limit patients due to pain and loss of movement.

Where does OA occur?  OA can occur in any joint and may occur only on one side of the joint. Usually it is seen in the joints of the fingers, spine, hips, and knees. The first and usually mildest is the OA which affects the hands, causing knobby enlargement of the finger joints. When this occurs at the end joints of the fingers, these enlargements are called Heberden’s nodes. Growths in the middle of the fingers are called Bouchard’s nodes. This type of OA may cause stiffness and changes in the cosmetic appearance of the hand.

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