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The Causes of Osteoarthritis

Learn Which Risk Factors You Can Control

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian & Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
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Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a major health problem affecting an estimated 21 million adults in the United States alone. Osteoarthritis begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage which results in pain, stiffness, swelling and tenderness. The joints of the fingers, spine, hips and knees, are most often affected, but osteoarthritis can also affect the shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankles.

Although the exact cause of osteoarthritis is not known, some experts believe that joint damage occurs as a response to physical stress (such as injury or repetitive movement). This wear and tear can erode the cartilage, which serves to cushion the ends of the bones in a joint and helps the joint move smoothly and easily. As the cartilage breaks down, the ends of the bones thicken and the joint may lose its normal shape. Eventually, the ends of the bones begin to rub together causing pain and tenderness. The damaged joint tissue can cause the release of substances called "prostaglandins," which further contribute to the pain and swelling associated with osteoarthritis.

There are two main categories of risks that can contribute to osteoarthritis—those that you can't change, and those that you can.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • PATTIPAZAAZ57
    This was very helpful and exactly what i was looking for thankyou - 5/14/2013 11:21:01 AM
  • This article answered questions even my doctor did not answer. I was just told I was getting osteoarthritis because I was older. - 1/5/2013 6:09:45 PM
  • THE ADD FOR CELEBREX INTERFERED WITH MY READING OF THIS ARTICLE.
    IT CUT OFF THE WHOLE RIGHT SIDE OF THE SENTENCES IN THE TOP PORTION OF THE ARTICLE. J

    JUST SHOULD NOT EVER HAPPEN. - 4/11/2012 11:23:45 PM
  • Losing weight is so important in helping to prevent stress on joints. YOGA practice is useful in giving flexibility to the stiffness of osteoarthritis. - 2/13/2008 10:55:38 AM
  • This article on Arthritis was very beneficial with good coverage...thank you - 1/21/2008 5:40:47 AM
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