Osteoarthritis

Also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and degenerative arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It develops when cartilage, the flexible tissue that allows bones in a joint to glide over each other, breaks down. 

Osteoarthritis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling of the affected joints. While it is most common among adults over 65, people of any age can develop this condition.

Osteoarthritis is sometimes also referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and degenerative arthritis.

Treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation and pain and maximizing function.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes osteoarthritis?

    It’s a common misconception that simple wear-and-tear on the joints causes osteoarthritis. While it’s part of the picture, genetics, metabolic issues, environmental factors, and trauma all have roles to play in the development of this disease. Age, gender, and other medical conditions may contribute to osteoarthritis as well.

  • What is the best treatment for osteoarthritis?

    There’s no single best treatment for osteoarthritis. You and your doctor should explore treatments and determine what’s best for you. You have many options, including:

  • What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

    Osteoarthritis: 

    • Degenerative
    • Caused by wear-and-tear of cartilage, genetics, and other factors 
    • Typically starts in one joint
    • Most common after age 65 
    • Strikes men and women equally 

    Rheumatoid arthritis: 

    • Autoimmune disease affecting the joint lining
    • Unknown cause 
    • Typically starts in multiple joints
    • Diagnosed most often between the ages of 30 and 60
    • More common in women
  • Is osteoarthritis an autoimmune disease?

    No, osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease. It’s a degenerative disease caused by normal wear-and-tear on joints as you age, combined with genetics and other factors. However, some other types of arthritis are autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.

Key Terms

A Closer Look at Osteoarthritis in the Body

Explore an interactive model that shows how osteoarthritis causes the thinning and destruction of cartilage, exposing the bone directly to the movement of the joint.

Older couple jogging in a park
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A X-ray showing arthritis of the knee.
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Healthy Cartilage Is Vital to Joint Function
Magnified image of loose connective tissue
Connective Tissue Supports Tissues and Organs
Knee pain in older man
Osteoarthritis and Wear and Tear of Joint Cartilage
Woman holding her knee
10 Important Facts About Osteoarthritis
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The Stages of Osteoarthritis
osteoarthritis in the knee
Warnings Signs of Osteoarthritis
Arthritic hands
Is Osteoarthritis Onset of Symptoms Always Gradual?
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Osteoarthritis and Mortality Risk
Knee X-ray
Significance of Subchondral Bone in Osteoarthritis
doctor evaluating senior woman's knee
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Joint space narrowing evident on knee x-ray
Joint Space Narrowing: What Is the Significance?
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Overview and Treatment of Hemarthrosis
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Joint Mobility and Osteoarthritis
Mother and daughter walking in the park. Older woman is using a cane.
What Can Decrease Joint Load for Osteoarthritis?
Illustration of a woman's ankle joint overlayed on a photo of the woman walking on a treadmill
Joint Function With Examples
Mature woman holding hand
Understanding Erosive Osteoarthritis
Senior African American man rubbing his shoulder.
Factors That Influence Chronic Arthritis Pain
Woman holding hand in pain after trying to cut an orange
Does Inflammation Play a Role in Osteoarthritis?
arthritic man
Minor Arthritis Pain and How It Is Treated
Cartilage loss.
What Does Cartilage Loss Mean for Arthritis Patients?
Painful Wrist In An Elderly woman
How Physical Function Is Assessed for Osteoarthritis
Bone Spurs
Bone Spur Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Woman on a stool with knee pain
Understanding an Osteoarthritis Diagnosis
An elderly woman suffering from joint pain.
Causes of Popping Joints
Foot - Hand Pressing on to Alleviate Pain
Overview of Hallux Rigidus Symptoms and Treatments
Man napping on sofa
How Fatigue Impacts Osteoarthritis Patients
An X-ray showing osteoarthritis of the knee
Chondrocalcinosis: Overview and More
older man with arthritis
Overview of Osteoarthritis With Pictures
Performing intra-articular injection in knee
Durolane Injection: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Precautions
osteoarthritis in knees
Can Osteoarthritis Be Reversed?
Hand osteoarthritis
Treatment Recommendations for Hand Osteoarthritis
A pile of ginger roots
Using Herbal Remedies for Osteoarthritis
CBD for Arthritis
CBD for Arthritis: Safety, Effectiveness and Legalities
woman taking medication
Advil and Aleve: What's the Difference?
Doctor examining patient's knee
Arthroscopic Debridement for Osteoarthritis
Woman with wrist pain
Cymbalta for Osteoarthritis Pain
Medical consultation Woman in consultation with a rheumatologist, Treatment of pain by infiltration.
Orthovisc Treatment for Knee Joints
Mature woman gripping her painful hand
Mobic (Meloxicam) for Arthritis: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Precautions
X-ray showing total knee replacement
Total vs. Partial Knee Replacement
Pain medication
The Pros and Cons of Cyclooxygenase (COX)
An elderly woman suffering from joint pain.
Does Diacerein Slow Progression of Osteoarthritis?
woman getting reflexology
Reflexology for Osteoarthritis
A woman with hip pain at the beach
Is Hyaluronic Acid Injected Into Arthritic Hips?
an emu in the grass
Blue-Emu Topical Pain Reliever
Monovisc. Bottle and syringe
Monovisc for Knee Osteoarthritis
A physical therapist performs a therapeutic ultrasound on a patient's knee.
Benefits of Ultrasound Therapy for Arthritis
An X-ray shows an artificial shoulder joint.
Benefits of Joint Replacement Surgery
Frankincense trees grow in the Middle East.
Boswellia Indian Frankincense for Osteoarthritis
Ointment on knee
Pennsaid Topical Solutions for Knee Osteoarthritis
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Doxycycline May Slow Progression of Osteoarthritis
Man's knee
Voltaren Gel: Safety, Side Effects, and Dosage
The glucosamine supplement
Glucosamine for Knee Osteoarthritis
Doctor using kinesiology tape on knee
Importance of Knee Taping for Osteoarthritis
Ibuprofen is an effective osteoarthritis treatment.
Osteoarthritis Pain Relief Medication Options
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zhang Y, Jordan JM. Epidemiology of osteoarthritis. Clin Geriatr Med. 2010;26(3):355-69. doi:10.1016/j.cger.2010.03.001

  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis-related statistics. Updated July 18, 2018.

Additional Reading