What is arthritis?
Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. It causes pain and usually also limits movement of the joints that are affected. There are many kinds of arthritis, but by far the most common type is called osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease).
What causes osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately the exact cause isn't known. It has been recognized however that osteoarthritis seems to run in families, so if your parents had arthritis there’s a greater chance that you may experience problems also. Osteoarthritis seems to be related to the wear and tear put on joints over the years in most people, but this wear and tear alone don't cause osteoarthritis.
What happens when a joint is affected?
Normally, a smooth layer of cartilage acts as a pad between the bones of a joint helping it to move easily and comfortably. In some people however, the cartilage becomes thinner over the years as the joints are used. This is the start of osteoarthritis. Over time, the cartilage gradually wears away and the bones may start to rub against one another.
At the points where the bones rub together, they are stimulated to grow very thick, forming something called an osteophyte, or bone spur. When this happens, bits of cartilage and bone may break away from the joint and get in the way of movement. This can cause pain, joint swelling and stiffness.
Who gets osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is more common in older people because they have been using their joints for longer. Using the joints to do the same task over and over can make osteoarthritis worse.
Younger people, such as athletes, can also get osteoarthritis because they use their joints so much. People who have jobs that require the same joint movements over and over are also at risk. Injury to a joint can increase the risk of developing arthritis in the joint later on in life. Being overweight puts extra pressure on many of the joints, especially in the legs and back, and so can... [continues]
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