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Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes joint pain and stiffness. It usually develops gradually, over time. Several different joints can be affected, but osteoarthritis is most frequently seen in the hands, knees, hips, feet and spine.
Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but the condition may settle down after a number of years and there is plenty you can do to relieve your symptoms.
There is no known cause for osteoarthritis, but it is more common among women. Osteoarthritis can develop at any age, although it occurs more frequently in older people. Injury to a joint can also trigger osteoarthritis, even many years later.
Osteoarthritis develops when changes in cartilage (soft tissue that protects the bone surface) occur that affect how joints work.
Sometimes part of the cartilage can break away from the bone leaving the bone ends exposed. These may then rub against each other and the ligaments become strained and weakened. This causes a lot of pain and changes the shape of the joint.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that develops over time. Changes will be slow and subtle in some people, whereas in others, the pain and stiffness will gradually worsen until the disease process finishes.
At this point, the joints will look rather knobbly, but are usually far less painful. In some cases they become pain free. You should be able to carry out most everyday tasks.
There are a number of things you can do to relieve the symptoms, and especially the pain.
Your doctor will prescribe you one (or more) of the following types of drugs:
Your doctor may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon if you have severe arthritis affecting weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips. If you do have your joints replaced they should give you no problems for 10-15 years or longer if you treat them carefully.
Some of the following may help to relieve pain and keep you mobile:
Arthritis Care run a range of self-management programmes designed to teach you skills to live life to the full and to help you get the most out of your healthcare team. The courses also allow you to meet other people with your condition.
The Arthritis Care Helpline is available to answer any specific questions you may have on all aspects of arthritis.
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