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Osteoarthritis (OS-tee-oh-are-THRY-tis) is one of the oldest and most common forms of arthritis. Known as the "wear-and-tear" kind of arthritis, OA is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of joints. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.
Osteoarthritis is known by many different names, including degenerative joint disease, ostoarthrosis, hypertrophic arthritis and degenerative arthritis. Your doctor might choose to use one of these terms to better describe what is happening in your body, but for our purposes, we will refer to all of these as osteoarthritis.
It is thought that osteoarthritis dates back to ancient humans. Evidence of osteoarthritis has been found in ice-aged skeletons. Today, an estimated 27 million Americans live with OA. Despite the longevity and frequency of the disease, the cause is still not completely known and there is no cure. In fact, many different factors may play a role in whether or not you get OA, including age, obesity, injury or overuse and genetics. Your OA could be caused by any one or by a combination of any of these factors.
There are several stages of osteoarthritis:
Changes in the cartilage and bones of the joint can lead to pain, stiffness and use limitations. Deterioration of cartilage can: