Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis among the general population, affecting over 32.5 million U.S. adults. OA starts when the cartilage within a joint begins to break down, causing deterioration of tendons and ligaments and changes in the underlying bone.
At OA’s worst, all of the cartilage in a joint wears away, leaving bones to rub against each other. OA most commonly affects hands, knees, hips, neck, and lower back, according to information on osteoarthritis provided by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
Also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, OA symptoms can range from occasional stiffness and mild pain to severe joint pain that persists even when you rest or try to sleep. Osteoarthritis can lead to bone spurs, mobility issues, and sometimes disability if your lower back, knees, or hips are affected.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a complex disease and is still the focus of much research. Approximately 80% of adults aged 55 and over show evidence of OA on their X-rays.
Evidence is growing for the role of systemic factors, such as genetics, diet, hormones, and bone density as well as more acute factors like obesity, muscle weakness, and overuse of joints.
Scientists believe the cause of OA can also depend on which part of the body is involved. For example, OA in the hands or hips may be due to genetic factors. OA in the knees can be linked with being overweight or having past injuries. Overuse can also cause OA in joints, especially in the case of long-term occupations which require repetitive movements.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
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