Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, degenerative arthritis or more plainly, “wear and tear” arthritis, is the most common form of arthritis. It is associated with the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, primarily in the hands, neck, spine, hips and knees.

Osteoarthritis is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage around the ends of the bone’s joints. This happens most typically due to age but can also result from a severe or repeated injury to a joint. Cartilage is the smooth, rubbery connective tissue on the end of bones, helping them move smoothly and easily.

Osteoarthritis can get worse over time; as the cartilage wears down, bones can be exposed and start rubbing against each other. Tendons and ligaments stretch as cartilage wears away, causing more pain. If left untreated, the cartilage may wear away completely. Obesity, heredity, joint overuse, bone deformities and having diabetes or other rheumatic diseases such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

It is most common after age 65. In fact, just about everybody has some degree of osteoarthritis in one or more joints by age 60. It’s probably responsible for that limp when you walk or that difficulty going up and down the stairs. There is no cure but a number of treatments can slow the progression of the disease, improve joint function and ease pain.