Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe.
In normal joints, a firm, rubbery material called cartilage covers the end of each bone. Cartilage provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between the bones. In OA, the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. As OA worsens over time, bones may break down and develop growths called spurs. Bits of bone or cartilage may chip off and float around in the joint. In the body, an inflammatory process occurs and cytokines (proteins) and enzymes develop that further damage the cartilage. In the final stages of OA, the cartilage wears away and bone rubs against bone leading to joint damage and more pain.
Although OA occurs in people of all ages, osteoarthritis is most common in people older than 65. Common risk factors include increasing age, obesity, previous joint injury, overuse of the joint, weak thigh muscles, and genes.
One in two adults will develop symptoms of knee OA during their lives.
One in four adults will development symptoms of hip OA by age 85.
One in 12 people 60 years or older have hand OA
What Are The Symptoms?
The main symptom is pain, causing loss of ability and often stiffness. Osteoarthritis can cause a crackling noise when the affected joint is moved. People often report an increase of pain with temperature change, humidity, and change in barometric pressure.
How Is It Diagnosed?
While no single test can definitively diagnose osteoarthritis of the knee, physicians use a comprehensive approach to arrive at the osteoarthritis diagnosis. The diagnosis is made with reasonable certainty based on health history and symptoms, physical examination, as well as diagnostic testing (X-rays, MRI’s, and joint aspiration).