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Arthritis: Key points
  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that develops when cartilage -- the lining tissue that cushions the ends of the bones in a joint -- breaks down. This can happen because of prolonged wear-and-tear, prior injury, or because the cartilage is genetically weak or altered by other disease.
  • Osteoarthritis typically strikes the hands, and the weight-bearing joints (knees, hips, backbone, feet).
  • The causes of osteoarthritis remain unknown. However, certain factors are associated with osteoarthritis, such as joint wear-and-tear, joint injury or overuse, inactivity, excess body weight, and heredity.
  • Many people don't realize that they have osteoarthritis, because they are free of symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include joint pain, limitation of motion, stiffness after inactivity, and bony enlargement ("spurs").
  • The treatment of osteoarthritis should be tailored to meet the needs of the individual. It usually begins with a comprehensive program that emphasizes proper exercise, diet and nutrition, joint protection techniques, coping skills for pain and stress, self-management, and medication.
  • Surgery is NOT the first line of treatment for osteoarthritis. It is reserved for people who have severe pain that is not relieved by available treatment methods, marked joint instability, or a significantly impaired ability to perform daily activities due to pain and loss of mobility.
  • Unproven arthritis "remedies" are treatments that have NOT been evaluated by controlled scientific studies, or proven effective or safe when evaluated by controlled scientific studies.
  • Although arthritis has become a leading cause of disability in the United States, it can be managed successfully. Health care professionals who are available to help coordinate osteoarthritis treatment programs include family doctors, internists, and rheumatologists (specialists in connective tissue disorders), physical therapists and physiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, psychiatrists and psychologists, and social workers.


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Review Date: 12/24/2012
Reviewed By: Ariel D. Teitel, MD, MBA, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, NYU Langone Medical Center. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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