Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis. It can affect any joint in the body and is believed to be a problem with degeneration of cartilage.
Joint space narrowing occurs, surrounding ligaments weaken and calcify, and pain on movement or on standing (in a weight bearing joint) becomes very prominent.
Since osteoarthritis is a wear and tear type of arthritis, joints used frequently and require weight bearing are the most affected.
Diagnosis is made by standing x-rays, arthrography (injection of contrast and local anesthetic into the joint…if pain is relieved, the joint may be osteoarthritic). Other means of diagnosis involve MRI and arthroscopy.
Prevention is in weight control, exercise, and possibly by using antioxidant vitamins. As little as 20 lbs extra weight causes an acceleration in cartilage degeneration and painful osteoarthritis. Moderate exercise stimulates cartilage growth by increasing blood flow.
Treatment is via joint injections with hyaluronate, arthroscopy (including meniscectomy if due to trauma or cartilage regenerative procedures if due to degeneration or severe trauma) , glucosamine/chondroitan, and joint replacement. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Feldene, Relafen, Vioxx, Aspirin, Celebrex, Naprosyn, Motrin, etc. all inhibit cartilage growth and can accelerate osteoarthritis. Tylenol (acetaminophen) does not affect cartilage.