Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that is the most common type of arthritis. It is caused by the wearing away of the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints. Eventually, this can lead to pain, swelling, and sometimes joint stiffness. OA can affect any joint in the body, but usually affects the hips, knees, fingers, and spine. Treatment typically involves lifestyle changes, physical therapy, medications, and sometimes surgery.


The symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from person to person, depending on the severity and location of the condition. Generally, symptoms include pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the joints; swelling and warmth; limited range of motion in the joints; and grating, grinding, or clicking sensation during movement. Over time, joint deformity, impaired movement, and increased pain may develop.


The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, however, the following are known factors associated with an increased risk of developing the condition:

  • Age: Osteoarthritis gets more common as people get older.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, especially after menopause.
  • Genetics: Osteoarthritis can be inherited or run in families.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese puts extra stress on joints, increasing the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Injury: Injury or stress to a joint can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Repetitive Movements: Repetitive motions or activities can overwork the joints, eventually leading to osteoarthritis.
  • Diseases or Conditions: Certain diseases or conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or metabolic, hormonal or endocrine disorders, can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Risk factors

The risk factors for Osteoarthritis include: increasing age, being overweight, joint injuries or excessive joint stress due to occupation, genetics, gender (osteoarthritis is more common in women), and certain medical conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudo-gout, and diabetes). Physical activity, healthy diet, and maintaining a normal body weight can help reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis is typically diagnosed by a physical examination of the joint and an MRI or X-ray to examine cartilage damage in the joint. A doctor may also take a joint fluid sample to check for signs of inflammation, and may ask questions about past medical history and symptoms. In some cases, a bone scan may be done in order to detect bone changes that are caused by the condition.


The various subtypes of Osteoarthritis are:

  1. Primary (idiopathic) Osteoarthritis: This type of Osteoarthritis is age-related, thought to be due to aging and repetitive wear-and-tear on joints.
  2. Secondary Osteoarthritis: This type of Osteoarthritis is caused by other conditions such as obesity, joint trauma, genetic disorders, or certain infections.
  3. Post-traumatic Osteoarthritis: This type of Osteoarthritis is caused by joint trauma or direct damage to a joint. It often develops months or years after a joint injury, such as a fracture, ligament tear, or dislocation.
  4. Hemophilic Arthropathy: This type of Osteoarthritis is caused by a deficiency of clotting factors in the blood due to Hemophilia. It is most commonly seen in the knees, ankles, and elbows.
  5. Osteonecrosis: This type of Osteoarthritis is caused by decreased blood flow, usually due to trauma or disease, which can lead to the death of the bone cells in the joint. It is commonly seen in the hips, but can also occur in other large joints.
  6. Inflammatory Osteoarthritis: This type of Osteoarthritis is caused by inflammation in the joint, usually due to an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.


The treatment options for Osteoarthritis can include both non-surgical and surgical treatments. Non-surgical treatments can include medications, physical therapy, dietary and lifestyle changes, weight management, and complementary and alternative therapies. Medications can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucosamine and chondroitin, and injections of analgesics, steroids, and hyaluronic acid. Physical therapy can include exercises to increase flexibility and range of motion, and support devices, such as splints, braces, canes, and walkers. Dietary and lifestyle changes can include eating a balanced and healthy diet, avoiding unhealthy foods, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. Weight management is important for those who are overweight or obese, as excess weight can increase stress on the joints. Complementary and alternative therapies that may help to reduce symptoms can include acupuncture, massage, tai chi, and yoga.

Surgical treatments can include joint replacement, osteotomy, and arthrodesis. Joint replacement involves replacing a damaged joint with an artificial one. Osteotomy involves removing a portion of the bone in order to realign the joint. Arthrodesis is a procedure in which two bones are fused together.


There are several steps one can take to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess body weight places extra stress on joints and can lead to osteoarthritis. So it is important to stay within a healthy weight range for your age, body type, and height.
  2. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help keep joints flexible and help prevent the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, biking, and walking can help protect joint health.
  3. Eat a healthy diet: Eating a well-rounded, balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals can help reduce inflammation and keep joints healthy.
  4. Don’t smoke: Smoking increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis and can worsen existing symptoms.
  5. Use caution when engaging in activities that put a lot of stress on joints: Avoid repetitive or high-impact activities that put a lot of stress on joints such as running, jumping, and contact sports. If you must engage in these activities, make sure to take steps to reduce the stress on your joints such as wearing proper shoes, taking frequent rest breaks, and using appropriate form.
  6. Use assistive devices: Assistive devices such as canes and braces can help reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis and can help reduce pain in those with existing joint disease.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of Osteoarthritis. According to research, women more commonly experience the onset of Osteoarthritis than men, particularly those between ages 45 and 64. Furthermore, men present with more severe and disabling Osteoarthritis symptoms than women. Additionally, women are more likely to utilize health services and to seek help from family, friends, and support groups. In terms of management, exercise and physical therapy have been shown to be more effective in women than in men. Women have also been found to benefit more from arthritis medications, including anti-inflammatory drugs, than men. Finally, the effects of one’s lifestyle, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, have been found to be more detrimental in women than in men.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of Osteoarthritis. Nutritional modifications can help reduce inflammation, which is a primary symptom of Osteoarthritis. Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, can help reduce joint pain and also reduce inflammation. Also, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help provide antioxidants which can reduce inflammation. Additionally, avoiding certain foods, such as processed and refined sugar, can help reduce symptoms associated with Osteoarthritis. Eating the right kinds of foods can help reduce joint pain, reduce inflammation, and even increase flexibility. Additionally, having a balanced and nutritious diet can help promote overall health and well-being and aid in the management of Osteoarthritis.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has been shown to be beneficial in treating osteoarthritis. Research has demonstrated that physical activity helps to reduce pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis, as well as improve overall strength and endurance. Exercise can also help to improve joint flexibility, range of motion, and balance. Regular physical activity is important for helping build up muscle strength which can help to support the joints. It can also help to maintain a healthy weight, which takes the pressure off the joints. Additionally, physical activity helps to release endorphins, which are hormones that can help to reduce pain and improve the overall mood. Therefore, physical activity is an important lifestyle factor in managing osteoarthritis.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/osteoarthritis.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482326/
  3. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/osteoarthritis-symptoms-and-diagnosis-beyond-the-basics
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/osteoarthritis.html
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351925
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5599-osteoarthritis

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