Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common kind of arthritis. It is a joint disease caused by inflammation. Healthy cartilage, the firm, rubbery tissue that cushions bones at joints, lets bones glide over one another while cartilage absorbs energy from the movement. In OA, cartilage breaks down and wears away. As a result, the bones rub together causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

OA may also limit the range of motion in affected joints. Most often, OA develops in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

OA affects more women than men. It is a common condition, especially as you get older. Symptoms tend to show up when people are in their 50s and 60s, although an injury to a joint or overuse can cause OA when you are younger. More than 20 million people in the United States have OA.

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Review Date: 2/3/2016  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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