Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.
OA is caused by joint damage. This damage can accumulate over time, which is why age is one of the main causes of the joint damage leading to osteoarthritis. The older you are, the more wear and tear you’ve had on your joints.
Other causes of joint damage include past injury, such as:
They also include joint malformation, obesity, and poor posture. Certain risk factors, such as family history and gender, increase your risk of osteoarthritis. Check out the most common causes of OA.
Cartilage is a tough, rubbery substance that’s flexible and softer than bone. Its job is to protect the ends of bones within a joint and allow them to move easily against each other.
When cartilage breaks down, these bone surfaces become pitted and rough. This can cause pain within the joint, and irritation in surrounding tissues. Damaged cartilage can’t repair itself. This is because cartilage doesn’t contain any blood vessels.
When cartilage wears away completely, the cushioning buffer that it provides disappears, allowing for bone-on-bone contact. This can cause intense pain and other symptoms associated with OA. Here’s what else you need to know about cartilage, joints, and osteoarthritis.