Also known as degenerative joint disease, it is the most common condition of the joints. Although osteoarthritis can affect any of the joints in the body, it mostly occurs in the knees, hips, small joints of the fingers, lower back, the neck, the bases of the thumb and big toe. It can cause pain, reduced motion of the affected joints and swelling. It mostly affects people over the age of 65 although it can develop in people of all age group. Osteoarthritis develops because of the breakdown of the cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is the rubbery material covering the ends of bones which absorb the shock of movement acting as a cushion between the joints. As the condition deteriorates, bones can also break with the development of growths known as spurs. When the inflammatory process occurs, it can cause further damage to the cartilage. Eventually, the cartilage can wear away and the bones can rub together causing joint damage.


Osteoarthritis was believed to develop because of the wear and tear of the joints over time but it is now considered to be a disease of the joint. This condition develops gradually over time. Some of the risk factors associated with the development of osteoarthritis include being overweight, a genetic defect in joint cartilage, stress on the joints from activities such as playing sports, joint injury, natural ageing process and joints that are not formed properly.


The symptoms of osteoarthritis are based on the joints affected and its severity. The common symptom is the pain and stiffness that mostly occur first thing in the morning. Also, the affected joints can become swollen with the symptoms progressively deteriorating over time. The affected joints can cause limited range of movement or stiffness that can go away after movement. In addition, it can include cracking sound when joint bends, pain that becomes worse after activity and swelling around the joint. The symptoms of osteoarthritis can make it difficult to carry out the normal everyday tasks such as grasping a computer mouse or driving a car. When the lower part of the body becomes affected it can make activities such as walking and climbing stairs difficult. If the finger and hand joints become affected, it can make it difficult to perform actions such as grasping or holding objects.


This condition is usually diagnosed by the Rheumatologists who also treat the diseases of the muscle, joints and bones. The diagnosis is based on the symptoms evident and with a physical examination. Additional tests may also be required to rule out other possible causes and to diagnose the disease which can include x-rays, blood tests and examination of the fluid in the joints.


This can consist of a combination of treatments. The main goals of the treatment are to improve the joint function, to control pain and to maintain a healthy body weight. The medications can include oral pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and pain. Surgery can be optional for the severe cases that can repair the joint and if this cannot be done, joint replacement may be required.