One of the most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis, the condition that affects the joints in the body. A person may have osteoarthritis of only one joint, such as the wrist, or of several. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 25 million people in our country have this condition, and says that OA is a leading cause of disability amongst adults in America.
A Look at Joint Structure
Joints are complex structures found throughout the body. In addition to several different bones, a joint also has a cushion of cartilage that keeps bones from touching. The thing is, cartilage can break down. This may result from excessive use of a specific joint, like the shoulder or elbow of a throwing arm. When cartilage breaks down, the joint becomes inflamed, and it often stays that way. If treatment is not performed quickly enough, cartilage can wear away completely.
Age and Joint Structure
In addition to chronic use, the cartilage in certain joints can wear down with age. Some joints are more susceptible than others. For instance, due to the fact that they support the weight of the body, the knee and hip joints are common areas to be affected by osteoarthritis. The hands are another.
When we grow older, our body does not recover from stress or movements as it once did. The smooth cartilage in joints may naturally thin, robbing us of the shock absorption we need to avoid stiffness and soreness. The body can also become more easily taxed if we do not maintain adequate muscle tone and strength to support the bones and various joints.
Common Factors in Osteoarthritis
Age is still the primary factor in the development of osteoarthritis. However, additional factors could cause one to develop this condition at an earlier age. These include:
- Family history. Osteoarthritis could have a genetic link.
- Gender. Men are more susceptible to osteoarthritis at a younger age, whereas women are more likely to develop this condition after the age of 50. After age 80, the numbers even out.
- Weight. Obesity is stressful for joints, bones, and cartilage.
- Occupation. The more rigorous one's activity on a daily basis, the more joints may break down over time.