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ARTHRITIS

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D E S C R I P T I O N

Osteoarthritis (OA) is what people often mean when they speak of "arthritis." It should be distinguished from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a very different health condition. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is an often-painful condition caused by deterioration of the protective cartilage that covers the ends of the bones, at the joints. The ends of the bones are usually affected as well. Osteoarthritis is more likely to happen to people after middle age. The damage takes the form of "wear-and-tear" -- as the cartilage wears away, the bones scrape together painfully.

Osteoarthritis is found most often in these places:

  • fingers
  • hips
  • knees
  • feet
  • spine

Osteoarthritis is found less often in these places:

  • wrists
  • elbows
  • shoulders
  • jaw


R I S K

People who are overweight are at greater risk for osteoarthritis, as are athletes (because of joint injuries) and people whose occupations involve intense physical activity. According to the Arthritis Foundation, most people over 60 years of age have osteoarthritis to some degree. Less than half of these people, however, notice any symptoms. About 16 million people in the United States suffer from osteoarthritis pain.


S Y M P T O M S

  • Joint pain, during or after use of the joint
  • Swelling or stiffness in a joint
  • Bony lumps on a finger joint
  • Joint pain when the weather changes


T R E A T M E N T

  • Acetaminophen, especially in early stages of the disease
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
  • Exercise, as directed by a doctor or physical therapist
  • Easing stress on joints with walkers, crutches or canes
  • Rest
  • Heat treatment with hot baths or heating pads and cold treatment with cold compresses or ice packs
  • Weight control
  • Surgery, in very severe cases


P R E V E N T I O N

  • Limiting stress on the joints may help to prevent osteoarthritis.
  • Keep your weight down.
  • Avoid repetitive motion.
  • If you injure a joint, get proper medical attention.

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