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.

Page Sources
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  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