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Arthritis means inflammation of the joints, the most common type being osteoarthritis.
Contrary to popular belief, osteoarthritis is not due to age-related ‘wear and tear’ on your joints. It tends to be more common as you get older – affecting around 80% people over the age of 50 to some degree - but is not a normal part of ageing.
Osteoarthritis develops in a joint when changes occur in the cartilage – the soft tissue that protects the surface of a bone and allows the joint to move freely. These changes affect how the joint works and may be due to damage that occurred to the joint many years before any symptoms appear.
Bony outgrowths form at the outer edges of the joint, making it look knobbly, and thickening of the membrane and capsule enclosing the joint make it stiff, painful to move and sometimes inflamed.
In some cases, part of the cartilage breaks away from the bone, leaving bone ends exposed. These bare ends may rub against each other and the ligaments that connect the bones, allowing the joint to move, become strained and weakened. This causes a lot of pain and changes the shape of the joint.
Osteoarthritis may occur in more than one joint at any one time, with the hips, knees, hands and lower part of the spine being most often affected. It does not always get worse and treatments are available to help manage your symptoms.
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