In all of your body's joints, a smooth layer of cartilage covers the ends of each bone in the joint. This cartilage cushions the ends of bones, absorbing shock and preventing the bones from rubbing against each other. Over time and with repeated use, this cartilage can deteriorate, resulting in osteoarthritis. The smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough, causing irritation and inflammation. If the cartilage wears away entirely in spots, the bones will rub against each other and incur damage. Over time, the pressure on the bone stimulates it to grow resulting in raised processes called bone spurs that can limit mobility and cause a lot of pain.
What causes the cartilage to deteriorate? Researchers suspect it is a combination of factors including excess weight that puts stress on joints, joint overuse, joint injury or stress, family history, and the aging process. While aging does not cause osteoarthritis, it is definitely a factor in developing the disease.
Continued on page 4: Who is at risk for osteoarthritis?