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What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a disease that causes the cartilage in your joints to break down. Cartilage is a smooth substance that protects the ends of your bones and helps your joints move. Osteoarthritis becomes more common as people get older. To diagnose this disease, your doctor will ask about your health history and perform an exam. X-rays may also be needed.

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Knee joint with osteoarthritis

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Healthy knee joint

Symptoms

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, with women tending to get it in their hands. Weight-bearing joints, such as the hip and knee, are often affected in both men and women. Some of the more common symptoms of this disease include:

  • Joint pain and stiffness. Long periods of rest or using a joint too long or too hard can make pain and stiffness worse.

  • Weak muscles or wobbly joints.

  • Joints that have lost normal shape and motion.

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If Surgery Is Needed

For people with severe joint damage, surgery can decrease pain and improve movement. Joint replacement is the most common surgery used to treat osteoarthritis. Joints in the knee, hip, and shoulder are replaced most often.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barrus, Bryan, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Mitchell, Bryan Sean, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/27/2012
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.