At The Center for Knee Arthritis, we treat patients with osteoarthritis. Among the 100+ types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is by far the most common—it affects about 30 million people in the United States alone. So what distinguishes osteoarthritis from other types of arthritis, and how is it treated?
A brief overview
Osteoarthritis, as we discussed in our knee arthritis post, is a progressive disease of the joints. It develops when the cartilage inside a joint—which is supposed to act as a shock absorber between the bones—wears down, becoming frayed and rough. Without soft, slippery cartilage to cushion the bones, bending or straightening a joint with osteoarthritis can be difficult and painful.
Osteoarthritis most commonly develops in the knee, hip, fingers, thumb, neck, lower back, and big toe. Osteoarthritis does not affect all joints equally. For example, people rarely develop osteoarthritis in their elbows, wrists, and ankles. Moreover, the severity of osteoarthritis varies from person to person.
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain, stiffness, and tenderness. Some osteoarthritis patients also experience swelling, due to fluid accumulation inside the joint. Others report a crackling or grating sensation when they bend and straighten the joint.
Osteoarthritis symptoms typically worsen over time. They are usually mild at first, but over time, they can become disabling. Symptoms of osteoarthritis might be more severe in the morning, during rigorous activity, or during rainy weather.