Osteoarthritis is the most commonly diagnosed form of arthritis. The condition occurs when the cartilage between the joints that normally separates the bones starts to degrade. Healthy cartilage is pliable and helps to provide a soft cushion between bones. People who develop this form of arthritis have cartilage that has become hard or that has worn away over time. The result is that the bones move towards each other stretching the surrounding ligament. This causes pain. A person with an advanced case of the condition could lose all cartilage. Loss of cartilage means the bones will rub together when the joints are used causing very severe pain and inflammation.

People who are asking what is osteoarthritis should understand that it is sometimes a part of the natural aging process. The cartilage between the joints slowly wears down over a lifetime. Minor inflammation is often the result. Physical injuries to areas like the knee sometimes trigger the development of the condition. Performing physically demanding activities like intense sports or heavy lifting for many years could damage cartilage. Individual circumstances like genetics, obesity or a preexisting medical condition could cause osteoarthritis as well.

One of the main symptoms of osteoarthritis is inflammation in the joints. This is swelling and redness.  The joint might become very tender and painful when touched. The arthritis will eventually make it difficult to move different joints and could restrict the effective range of motion. The condition can affect any of the joints in the body. The hands, wrists and fingers are very commonly affected. The hips, knees, toes and ankles can develop the condition as well. For individuals who have osteoporosis and arthritis in the hip osteoarthritis could be very painful and might result in eventual damage to the bones.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis. There are many treatments available depending on the severity of the pain and degeneration in the joint. People who have minor inflammation have success with over the counter medications that reduce the swelling. There is a positive link between exercise and osteoarthritis.  Exercising regularly will strengthen the muscles and supporting structures in the body. Gentle exercise will increase the basic range of motion and could prevent the condition from becoming worse. Weight loss will help to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis and knee pain. A person who is obese or very overweight is placing extra pressure on the joints in the hips, knees and ankles that will cause pain. Some very serious cases are treated with surgery that drains the fluids from the area and reduces inflammation.