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Osteoarthritis: Introduction

Osteoarthritis is an ongoing, progressive disease that affects the joints of the body as the cartilage of joints breaks down over time. Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease.

The joints of the body are the areas where two of more bones meet. In these places, the ends of the bones are protected by a tissue called cartilage, which helps bones to move easily without wearing away the bone tissue. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes torn or thin. This results in the symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as joint pain and swelling.

The way that the disease affects people varies greatly from person to person, but most often affects fingers, hips, back, knees, toes, and neck. Symptoms of osteoarthritis can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Osteoarthritis can also cause inflammation of the synovial membranes. Healthy synovial membranes line and protect the joints and allow smooth and free movement. When synovial membranes are inflamed, they become swollen, tender and warm, and are unable to move freely. Osteoarthritis can also result in other complications. For more details on complications and symptoms, refer to symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Risk factors for developing osteoarthritis include being over 45 years old, overweight, joint injury, a sedentary lifestyle, and having family members with osteoarthritis.

Making a diagnosis of osteoarthritis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. X-rays or MRI may be done to determine if there is joint or nerve damage.

Medical testing may include a variety of tests, including blood tests that are performed to rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis. These include a rheumatoid factor test, complete blood test (CBC), C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, joint X-rays, and an analysis of the "lubricating" fluid in the joints (synovial fluid).

It is possible that a diagnosis of osteoarthritis can be missed or delayed because some people have no symptoms and because the disease progresses gradually and early symptoms can be mild or assumed to be associated with other conditions, such as aging. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of osteoarthritis.

Treatment for osteoarthritis varies depending on the severity of symptoms, the presence of complications, a person's age and medical history, and other factors. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but treatment can help to reduce symptoms and minimize destruction of joints and other complications. Treatment can include a combination of medication, physical therapy, and surgery. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of osteoarthritis....more »

Osteoarthritis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of osteoarthritis may be delayed or missed because early symptoms may be mild and intermittent and develop slowly. In addition, some people do not experience symptoms in early stages of osteoarthritis. Symptoms may also be mistakenly attributed to other conditions and diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, minor joint trauma, aging, or excessive exercise. ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Osteoarthritis:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Osteoarthritis. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Osteoarthritis: Causes | Symptom Checker »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Osteoarthritis

Home medical tests possibly related to Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Osteoarthritis, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

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Osteoarthritis Treatments

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but with early recognition and treatment, it is possible to minimize and delay joint damage and complications of the disease, such as chronic pain and disability. The most successful treatment plans usually use a multipronged approach, including physical therapy, appropriate periods of rest and exercise, medications, and in some cases surgery.

Physical ...Osteoarthritis Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Osteoarthritis may include:

Review further information on Osteoarthritis Treatments.

Alternative Treatments for Osteoarthritis

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Osteoarthritis may include:

Stories from Users for Osteoarthritis

Real-life user stories relating to Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis: Animations

Osteoarthritis: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Osteoarthritis may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Osteoarthritis

Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis: Deaths

Read more about causes and Osteoarthritis deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Osteoarthritis

Alzheimer's disease over-diagnosed: The well-known disease of Alzheimer's disease is often over-diagnosed. Patients tend to assume that any memory loss or forgetulness symptom might more »

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Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps, particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes. However, there are also various other causes. See causes more »

Rare diseases misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease: A rare genetic disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease for men in their 50's. The disease Fragile X disorder can more »

Psoriatic arthritis often undiagnosed cause of joint conditions: Patients with the skin condition psoriasis can also have the related arthritis subtype called "psoriatic arthritis". This arthritic condition tends to more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see more »

Osteoarthritis: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Osteoarthritis

Research extensive quality ratings and patient safety measures for hospitals, clinics and medical facilities in health specialties related to Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis: Related Rare Diseases

Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:

Osteoarthritis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Causes of Osteoarthritis listed in Disease Database:

Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible causes of Osteoarthritis as a symptom include:

Article Excerpts about Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This is the form that usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows an injury to a joint. For example, a young person might hurt his knee badly playing soccer. Then, years after the knee has apparently healed, he might get arthritis in his knee joint.

A sports injury to a knee when a person is young can lead to athritis years later.

Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body's own defense system doesn't work properly. It affects joints, bones, and organs--often the hands and feet. You may feel sick or tired, and you may have a fever.

Other conditions can also cause arthritis. Some include:

  • Gout, in which crystals build up in the joints. It usually affects the big toe.

  • Lupus (LOOP-us), in which the body's defense system can harm the joints, the heart, the skin, the kidneys, and other organs.

  • Viral hepatitis (VY-rul HEP-ah-TY-tis), in which an infection of the liver can cause arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis can make it hard to hold a pencil or a brush.

Do I Have Arthritis?  


Pain is the way your body tells you that something is wrong. Most kinds of arthritis cause pain in your joints. You might have trouble moving around. Some kinds of arthritis can affect different parts of your body. So, along with the arthritis, you may:

  • Have a fever.

  • Lose weight.

  • Have trouble breathing.

  • Get a rash or itch.

These symptoms may also be signs of other illnesses.

Having stiffness or pain when you move could be a sign of arthritis.

What Can I Do?  


Go see a doctor. Many people use herbs or medicines that you can buy without a prescription for pain. You should tell your doctor if you do. Only a doctor can tell if you have arthritis or a related condition and what to do about it. It's important not to wait.

You'll need to tell the doctor how you feel and where you hurt. The doctor will examine you and may take x rays (pictures) of your bones or joints. The x rays don't hurt and aren't dangerous. You may also have to give a little blood for tests that will help the doctor decide if you have arthritis and what kind you have.

The x rays will tell the doctor what is happening to the bones and joints inside your body.

How Will the Doctor Help?  


After the doctor knows what kind of arthritis you have, he or she will talk with you about the best way to treat it. The doctor may give you a prescription for medicine that will help with the pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Health insurance or public assistance may help you pay for the medicine, doctor visits, tests, and x rays.

To get your medicine, take your prescription to your local drugstore or send it to your mail-order provider.

How Should I Use Arthritis Medicine?  


Before you leave the doctor's office, make sure you ask about the best way to take the medicine the doctor prescribes. For example, you may need to take some medicines with milk, or you may need to eat something just before or after taking them, to make sure they don't upset your stomach.

You should also ask how often to take the medicine or to put cream on the spots that bother you. Creams might make your skin and joints feel better. Sometimes, though, they can make your skin burn or break out in a rash. If this happens, call the doctor.

You may need to drink milk or eat when you take your medicine.

What If I Still Hurt?  


Sometimes you might still have pain after using your medicine. Here are some things to try:

  • Take a warm shower.

  • Do some gentle stretching exercises.

  • Use an ice pack on the sore area.

  • Rest the sore joint.

If you still hurt after using your medicine correctly and doing one or more of these things, call your doctor. Another kind of medicine might work better for you. Some people can also benefit from surgery, such as joint replacement. (Source: excerpt from Do I have Arthritis: NIAMS)

Osteoarthritis (AH-stee-oh-ar-THREYE-tis) is the most common type of arthritis, especially among older people. Sometimes it is called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis. (Source: excerpt from Handout on Health Osteoarthritis: NIAMS)

Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting an estimated 20.7 million adults in the United States. Osteoarthritis primarily affects cartilage, which is the tissue that cushions the ends of bones within the joint. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage begins to fray, wear, and decay. In extreme cases, the cartilage may wear away entirely, leaving a bone-on-bone joint. Bony spurs (pointy bulges of bone) may form at the edges of the joint. Osteoarthritis can cause joint pain, reduced joint motion, loss of function, and disability. Disability results most often when the disease affects the spine and the weight-bearing joints (the knees and hips). (Source: excerpt from Questions and Answers About Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases: NIAMS)

Osteoarthritis (OA) , at one time called degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis in older people. Symptoms can range from stiffness and mild pain that comes and goes to severe joint pain and even disability. (Source: excerpt from Arthritis Advice -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA)

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This is the form that usually... (Source: excerpt from Do I have Arthritis: NIAMS)

Osteoarthritis (AH-stee-oh-ar-THREYE-tis) is the most common type of... (Source: excerpt from Handout on Health Osteoarthritis: NIAMS)

Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis,... (Source: excerpt from Questions and Answers About Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases: NIAMS)

Osteoarthritis (OA) , at one time called degenerative joint disease, is... (Source: excerpt from Arthritis Advice -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA)

Definitions of Osteoarthritis:

Noninflammatory degenerative joint disease occurring chiefly in older persons, characterised by degeneration of the articular cartilage, hypertrophy of bone at the margins and changes in the synovial membrane. It is accompanied by pain and stiffness, particularly after prolonged activity. (On-line Medical Dictionary)
- (Source - Diseases Database)

Chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints; the most common form of arthritis occurring usually after middle age
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Noninflammatory degenerative joint disease occurring chiefly in older persons, characterized by degeneration of the articular cartilage, hypertrophy of bone at the margins, and changes in the synovial membrane, accompanied by pain and stiffness.
- (Source - CRISP)

Detailed list of causes of Osteoarthritis

The list below shows some of the causes of Osteoarthritis mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Osteoarthritis?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Osteoarthritis. Of the 29 causes of Osteoarthritis that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 2 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 2 causes are "common" diseases
  • 2 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 0 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 0 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 26 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Osteoarthritis:

The following list of conditions have 'Osteoarthritis' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Osteoarthritis or choose View All.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Osteoarthritis:

The following list of medical conditions have Osteoarthritis or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.






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Causes of Osteoarthritis Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Osteoarthritis based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    What are the alternative names for Osteoarthritis:

    Degenerative joint disease, OA
    - (Source - Diseases Database)

    Classifications of Osteoarthritis:

    Medical Conditions associated with Osteoarthritis:

    Joint pain (773 causes), Arthritis-like symptoms (764 causes), Pain (6458 causes), Joint symptoms (1430 causes), Bone symptoms (2907 causes), Skeletal symptoms (4109 causes), Inflammatory symptoms (1736 causes), Sensations (6520 causes), Brain symptoms (2787 causes), Neurological symptoms (9575 causes), Sensory symptoms (7134 causes), Nerve symptoms (9132 causes), Musculoskeletal symptoms (6264 causes), Common symptoms (8589 causes), Body symptoms (5672 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes)

    Symptoms related to Osteoarthritis:

    Arthritis (224 causes), Joint pain (773 causes), Joint stiffness (258 causes), Joint redness (30 causes), Bouchard's nodules, Heberden's nodules, Degenerative arthritis, Acute pain, Stiffness (692 causes), Trauma, Hereditary, Old age, Bunions (9 causes), Hips, Knees, Rheumatoid arthritis (17 causes)

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Osteoarthritis:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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