Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage that protects and cushions the joints breaks down over time. Eventually, the bones—formerly separated by the cartilage—rub against each other, resulting in damage to the tissue and underlying bone and causing painful joint symptoms.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is a major cause of disability in older adults. It most often affects the spine, fingers, thumbs, hips, knees, or toes.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis can usually be successfully managed with medicine and home treatment. Although osteoarthritis usually gets worse, in some cases symptoms may not get worse or may even improve slightly with time. Joint replacement surgery may be necessary in severe cases.
Last Revised: April 8, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
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