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Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis and is characterized by chronic breakdown of the joint cartilage. Cartilage cushions the ends of bones and allows easy movement of the joints. When the cartilage breaks down, the ends of bones rub against each other, creating intense pain, stiffness, and loss of joint movement.

Osteoarthritis affects millions of Americans. Despite the prevalence, it's cause is not known and there is no cure. Factors that may increase likeliness of developing the disease including age, obesity, injury, overuse and genetics.

Age is an important risk factor of Osteoarthritis. The wear and tear associated with aging plays a part in it's development simply because the older one becomes, the more the joints have been used.

Obesity plays both a mechanical and systemic role in the onset of osteoarthritis. Increased body weight affects the knees. For every pound gained, four pounds of pressure is exerted on the knees. In addition, research indicates that excess body fat produces chemicals that can cause joint damage.

Injury may trigger the development of Osteoarthritis, sometimes years after the occurrence. Osteoarthritis may also develop in joints where bones have been fractured or surgery has been performed.

Overuse of a joint over time creates a higher risk of developing Osteoarthritis. Risk is increased specifically in athletes, landscapers, machine operators, and other jobs that require repetitive motion.

Genetics plays an important role in the development of Osteoarthritis. Inherited abnormalities of the bones that affect joint shape or stability can lead to the development of the disease although not absolute. Possessing an inherited trait of osteoarthritis is only a risk factor and does not necessarily mean the disease will develop, although close and frequent evaluation is recommended.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis often develop gradually. It may begin as stiffness or soreness with intermittent, moderate pain. Some people do not experience any other symptoms. Others, however experience a progressing level of stiffness and pain that interferes with daily activities. Walking, climbing stairs, or sleeping become difficult due to the degree of pain and stiffness experienced. Inflammatory or erosive osteoarthritis may also develop as a rare and uncommon effect. Osteoarthritis commonly occurs in weight bearing joints, such as the hips, knees, and lower back. It may also affect the neck, finger joints, tumb, or the joint of the big toe.

The most common signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis include:

• Joint soreness or stiffness following periods of overuse or nonuse
• Stiffness that develops after periods of rest and is relieved by activity
• Morning stiffness lasting up to 30 minutes
• Joint pain that is worse at the end of the day
• Impaired coordination, poor posture, and limited mobility due to pain and stiffness