Osteoarthritis(OA) is also known as degenerative arthritis and unlike the inflammatory arthropathies, OA is due to the basic wear and tear of a joint space. It is seen more often later on in life after the age of 40 years, and is the most commonly diagnosed arthritis. Osteoarthritis commonly affects the hands, feet, spine, and large weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, as it entails the breakdown and eventual wearing away of cartilage in these joint spaces which are often commonly used. Repetitive use of the worn joints over the years can irritate and inflame the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths –spurs or osteophytes-to form around the joints. As OA progresses, the affected joints appear larger, are stiff and painful, and usually feel better with gentle use but worse with excessive or prolonged use.
Osteoarthritis has been noted to occur in multiple family members, implying a genetic hereditary component, although overzealous athletes, congenital abnormalities, prior trauma or fracture and diabetes can all lead to eventual OA.