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How Osteoarthritis Occurs
Comparing Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Evolution of Osteoarthritis

How Osteoarthritis Occurs

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the protective cartilage on the end of your bones breaks down over time. As a result bones are exposed and begin to grate against each other causing pain when you move.

Comparing Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Despite the suffix '-itis' which implies inflammation, the pain associated with osteoarthritis is due primarily to loss of cartilage rather than inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis is associated with inflammation of the synovial membrane). Osteoarthritis tends to occur in weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees, spine, big toe and thumb. Unlike bone, cartilage cannot repair itself. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Any damage is irreversible. That means, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Treatment can only reduce symptoms and delay the progression of the disease.

In a healthy joint, cartilage pads reduce friction and absorb shock. Osteoarthritis damages these pads, allowing the bones to rub together. Eventually abnormlities appear in the exposed bone - some as lumps called bone spurs and fluid filled cysts.

Knee Osteoarthritis

Unless osteoarthritis is caused by an injury, it is likely to affect both knees. You will experience pain when walking, particularly when going upstairs or uphill. The knees may ‘lock’ making it difficult to straighten the leg. There may also be a soft, grating noise when you move the knees. The only definitive way to treat a damaged joint is to replace it surgically with an article one (prosthesis). This surgery is called arthroplasty. See also, knee arthritis.


Hip Osteoarthritis

If you have osteoarthritis in the hip, anything that requires hip movement causes pain, such as putting on your shoes or getting in and out of a car. You will also feel pain while walking. Although hip pain is the most common symptom, you may also feel pain in the knees, or even the thighs, ankles or buttocks. See, hip arthritis.

Osteoarthritis of the Hands

Women with osteoarthritis of the hands are particularly prone to developing lumps (bone spurs) on the middle joints of the fingers called Bouchard's nodes and the end joints of the fingers called Heberden's nodes. These lumps tend to be painful in the first few years of growth, but pain subsides eventually until it disappears altogether. The fingers remain disfigured looking.

4 generations of women in one family, all affected by osteoarthritis of the hands. Varying degrees of Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes can be seen.


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