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2012-05-01 - Learn more about factors and treatments for Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis and affects nearly 27 million Americans. OA is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint. Osteoarthritis can also damage ligaments, menisci and muscles. Osteoarthritis occurs most often in knees, hips and hands. Other joints, particularly the shoulders, can also be affected. OA rarely affects other joints, except as a result of injury or unusual physical stress. Osteoarthritis is common in all races and backgrounds. It usually appears after age 45. Men under age 55 are more likely to have OA than women in the same age range.

Factors:
Age. Incidences of osteoarthritis increase with age due to simple "wear and tear" on the joints.
Obesity. Increased body weight impacts your knees which carry the brunt of the weight. For every pound gained, you add 4 pounds of pressure on the knees and six times the pressure on your hips.
Injury or Overuse. Athletes and people whose jobs require repetitive motion, (landscaping, typing or operating machinery), have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Genetics or Heredity. Genetics plays a role in the development of arthritis, particularly in the hands.
Muscle Weakness. Studies show that weakness of the muscles surrounding the knee, especially in women, makes the pain and stiffness worse after onset. Strengthening exercises for thigh muscles are important in reducing the risk.

Treatment:
Pain relief. Analgesics and topical pain relievers combat discomfort, but don't fight inflammation. Oral and injectible corticosteroids control inflammation, but aren't recommended for frequent or long-term use. Nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) do a good job of reducing pain, swelling and inflammation. However, they can cause stomach distress and ulcers.
Physical Activity & Weight Loss. Are effective non-drug treatments to relieve pressure and stay flexible.
Joint Replacement. May be an option for extremely damaged joints.

For more information about arthritis visit: http://www.arthritis.org.