What is Osteoarthritis?

The most common joint disorder in the world, osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease typically affecting the joints of the hand, spine, hips and knees.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by pain, stiffness, grating and cracking sensations, and limited mobility in the joints. Symptoms progressively advance over time, but unlike many other rheumatological conditions, OA does not affect other systems in the body, and usually results in only mild inflammation.

The disease is caused by damage to articular cartilage and the underlying bone structures (primary OA), as well as other causes of bone stress and mechanical or structural deformities (secondary OA). The impact of both forms of osteoarthritis is serious and often disabling for patients.

Recent evidence suggests that there maybe an inflammatory component to OA, but more research is needed to fully understand the immune system’s role in this condition.

  • OA is insidious, meaning it begins to present symptoms in a slow and gradual manner, with eventual harmful effects. OA sufferers must use medications, joint protection strategies, and rest to alleviate symptoms and increase joint functions.
  • OA is chronic, meaning it is persistent and long-lasting; with osteoarthritis, there is little if any possibility of remission, only methods of mitigating pain and speed of disease progression.

Osteoarthritis accounts for more disability among older adults than any other disease, affecting approximately 12% of the overall population..

Learn more about OA in this section - scroll down or click a topic at right.