Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is associated with increasing age, though it is a distinct entity from the changes associated with ageing. Osteoarthritis is a disease affecting the cartilage layer that covers the ends of bones at a joint and normally functions to provide a smooth surface that allows friction-free joint movement. Any joint can suffer from osteoarthritis, some of the common ones include hips, back, knees, shoulders, fingers.
In osteoarthritis, there is a breakdown of the smooth cartilage layer which then tries to heal itself. There is gradual thinning of the cartilage layer with eventually complete loss. Osteoarthritis is characterised by pain and stiffness that is usually worse with movement and tends to be worst at the end of the day or after heavy activity.
Osteoarthritis is best treated initially with simple measures including low impact exercise, strengthening, pain killers, and walking sticks or supports. For osteoarthritis affecting your lower back or joints of your legs, you should try to lose weight as this can be very effective at reducing the severity of your symptoms.
If you have had a painful joint or multiple painful joints that have not started to improve after a few weeks you should arrange to see your doctor who will examine you and arrange further investigations. If your symptoms are severe you may be referred to see a specialist. Osteoarthritis can be managed with injections or surgery depending upon the joints affected.