Osteoarthritis is the most common form of osteoarthritis in the United States, affecting more than 20 million people. It is a chronic joint disease affecting joints such as the hands, spine, hips and knees. It is commonly seen with aging or after joint injury. The cartilage (tissue at the ends of bones) starts to break down, bony changes develop (leading to bone spurs), tendons and ligaments may start to deteriorate and there can be mild inflammation in the joint lining. Osteoarthritis is a major cause of disability as people age. The goal of osteoarthritis treatment is to reduce pain and improve function.
Causes and Risk Factors
There is no specific cause for osteoarthritis. However, risk factors include joint injury, obesity, older age, heredity, and muscle weakness.
Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Limited joint movement
The symptoms are usually worse with activity and get better with rest. There may be some stiffness in the morning or after sitting for a while, but it tends to improve after a few minutes.
Osteoarthritis is diagnosed based on history and physical exam. Doctors look for enlarged or bumpy joints, joint swelling, and range of motion. Blood tests are not necessary for diagnosis. X-rays can confirm the disease and help to determine its severity.
We do not yet have medications which can stop the disease process. Therefore, treatment of osteoarthritis is focused on relieving pain and preventing disability:
- Weight loss
- Medications to slow disease progression and treat pain
- In severe cases, orthopaedic surgery may be considered
To learn more about our services or to make an appointment with a Brigham and Women’s Hospital rheumatologist, contact one of our trained coordinators at 1-800-294-9999 to get connected with the best doctor for your needs.