Sometimes called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is a result of “wear-and-tear” or injury of the joints in which cartilage begins to wear away over time and gradually becomes rougher and thinner. The result is painful friction of the bones within the joint, inflammation and stiffness. The most common joints to become arthritic include the neck, lower back, hips, fingers and knees, joints that are all practically in constant use. Swelling can occur if the synovial membrane becomes irritated and produces excess fluid that collects inside the joint. As the cartilage wears away, growths of bone (called bone spurs) may form around the edges of the joint, making it look knobby and swollen. As the process continues, a substantial amount of cartilage wears away, causing the bones that meet at the joint to rub against each other. This can be extremely painful and can severely reduce movement in the joint.
Arthrosis represents 70% of all rheumatic diseases.
At least 2 to 3 percent of all adults in the USA, including half of those older than 65, have some evidence of osteoarthritis visible on an X-ray. Osteoarthritis in the knees and hands occurs more frequently in women; in the hips, the disease affects men and women equally.
Arthritis is often found in athletes’ hips and knees because many sports can place more stress on the joints than what is normally encountered, as well as the fact that athletes are more likely to have joint injuries.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most debilitating diseases of old age and rates of the disorder are expected to rise as life expectancy increases. Deterioration from osteoarthritis is the most common reason for replacing joints with artificial ones. More than 420,000 Americans had total hip or knee replacement surgery in 1998 at an average age of 68.