Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of joint disease that results from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. Usually the symptoms progress slowly over years. Initially they may occur only after exercise but can become constant over time. Other symptoms may include joint swelling, decreased range of motion, and, when the back is affected, weakness or numbness of the arms and legs. The most commonly involved joints are the two near the ends of the fingers and the joint at the base of the thumbs; the knee and hip joints; and the joints of the neck and lower back. Joints on one side of the body are often more affected than those on the other. The symptoms can interfere with work and normal daily activities. Unlike some other types of arthritis, only the joints, not internal organs, are affected.
Causes include previous joint injury, abnormal joint or limb development, and inherited factors. Risk is greater in those who are overweight, have legs of different lengths, or have jobs that result in high levels of joint stress. Osteoarthritis is believed to be caused by mechanical stress on the joint and low grade inflammatory processes. It develops as cartilage is lost and the underlying bone becomes affected. As pain may make it difficult to exercise, muscle loss may occur. Diagnosis is typically based on signs and symptoms, with medical imaging and other tests used to support or rule out other problems. In contrast to rheumatoid arthritis, in osteoarthritis the joints do not become hot or red.