Osteoarthritis: Overview

About 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis—also called "OA." It's the most common type of arthritis in the U.S.

If you have OA, the cartilage tissue protecting the ends of your bones slowly wears away. As a result your bones rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of motion in your joint. Bits of bone—called bone spurs—can break off and float inside your joint, causing even more pain.

Most people develop OA after the age of 45. Women have a bit higher risk for the disease. While wear and tear over the years is often to blame, other conditions can also cause OA to develop. Genetics are to blame for certain areas of OA like the hands, while obesity is mostly to blame for knee OA and previous athletic injuries play a role here too. The problems with hip OA are complex and sometimes the way your bones form in early childhood or youth may be causal. We are on the verge of discovering the important roles that genetic predisposition plays in conjunction with environmental influences. We hope that these discoveries will be able to give us a prevention strategy.

OA will most often affect your hands, spine, knees and hips. Usually, the disease develops gradually, starting out as occasional soreness or stiffness. While some people experience only mild symptoms, others develop pain and stiffness that makes it difficult to walk or sleep.

Despite this setback, the goal of any patient with osteoarthritis is to take care of their body well enough so they can enjoy life with out too much pain or stiffness. Don't give up hope!