Synonyms: Wear-and-tear arthritis, Degenerative joint disease, Age-related arthritis

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Orthopedics

Clinical Definition

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, is more prevalent with age as inflammation and joint injury cause a breakdown of cartilage tissue, triggering pain, edema and deformity.

Treatment may include medication, exercise, heat and cold therapy, weight loss, supportive devices and surgery. 

In Our Own Words

Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints, more common with age, that occurs as cartilage tissue--the firm, rubbery material covering bone ends in normal joints--breaks down. That triggers pain, swelling and inflammation. Joints can become deformed.


Primary osteoarthritis affects the fingers, thumbs, knees, hips and spine. Another type, secondary osteoarthritis, occurs after injury or inflammation in a specific joint. Osteoarthritis develops slowly, and pain usually develops gradually. It increases with activities that stress joints, such as walking or running. Treatments may include medicines, exercise, physical therapy, exercise therapy, weight loss, supportive devices such as shoe inserts or braces. Surgery is another option if nothing else has worked.

Relevant Conditions
  • Joint injuries
  • Obesity
Common Types
  • Primary generalized
  • Secondary
Side Effects
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Bone spurs
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "What is osteoarthritis?" Diseases & Conditions. April 2010. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/osteoarthritis/hic-osteoarthritis-what-you-need-to-know.aspx. Accessed November 2013.
  • Harvard Medical School. "Medical Dictionary of Health Terms." 2013. http://www.health.harvard.edu/medical-dictionary-of-health-terms.Accessed November 2013.
Keep Reading

Investigate your bodys signs and signals.
Try Symptom Checker