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What is osteoarthritis?


Updated July 16, 2014

hip osteoarthritis

Hip Arthritis: The pelvis bone and thigh bone connect at the hip joint.

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There are several types of arthritis, the most common is called osteoarthritis.
    • Arthritis is the word used to describe inflammation of a joint.
There are a few different problems that can cause joint inflammation or arthritis. One of these problems is called osteoarthritis. People often refer to osteoarthritis by other names like 'degenerative joint disease,' or 'wear-and-tear arthritis.'

Other less common causes of joint inflammation or arthritis include:

What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition once thought to be due simply to wear and tear on the cartilage of a joint. Osteoarthritis is now known to be a complex process that involves an active disease process.

Normal joint surfaces are covered with a smooth layer of cartilage. This cartilage is the surface that is worn thin in the condition called osteoarthritis. The problem that causes osteoarthritis is due to more wearing away (degradation) and less repair of the cartilage surface. There is both a mechanical (wearing away) part of osteoarthritis, and a biologic (abnormal joint biology) part of the disease.

What factors make an individual prone to developing osteoarthritis?
Research over the past decade has focused on finding the underlying causes of osteoarthritis, and how understanding these causes may shape future treatments. We know that patients who have osteoarthritis likely have multiple risk factors that have led to their development of this condition.

Isn't osteoarthritis just part of aging?
It is known that osteoarthritis tends to affect older individuals, but it is not clear why some people develop arthritic changes in their 40s and 50s, while others live long lives with few joint problems.

People once thought that osteoarthritis was simply due to the demands an individual placed on their joints throughout life. Many people attribute their arthritis to the activities of their youth. But it really is not that simple. Many people who run and play competitive sports have no problems with arthritic joints.

It is now understood that osteoarthritis is not an inevitable part of aging. It seems as though a combination of different factors leads to the development of osteoarthritis in individuals. In different people, different factors may be more important, but it is unusual to have just one underlying problem that causes osteoarthritis.

For information about how osteoarthritis affects specific joints, look through the following information:

How can research about osteoarthritis change treatment?
In order to best treat osteoarthritis, physicians must better understand the disease. While osteoarthritis was once thought to be confined to the cartilage surface, it is now known that osteoarthritis affects the entire joint causing loss of cartilage, damage to bone, formation of bone spurs, and inflammation of the soft-tissues.

For more information, read on about arthritis treatment...

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Orthopedics
  4. Arthritis
  5. Types of Arthritis
  6. Osteoarthritis
  7. Osteoarthritis - Wear and Tear of Joint Cartilage

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