Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is one of the more common signs that you're getting older. Caused by the gradual wearing away of the cartilage between your joints, the bone-on-bone friction that's a hallmark of this condition can be very uncomfortable and may interfere with certain activities. But if you suffer from osteoarthritis, you're hardly alone. Experts estimate that almost everyone has some degree of osteoarthritis by the time they turn 70, with many folks beginning to notice it in their 40s and 50s. Along with membership in AARP, the disease is practically a rite of passage of aging.

Why does growing older go hand in hand with osteoarthritis?

Possibly it's because the cartilage between your bones is less able to rejuvenate itself after a lifetime of stress and damage. Overuse of certain joints is a common cause of osteoarthritis; eventually, too much activity catches up to you. Osteoarthritis may also run in families. If your parents had it in their middle or old age, there's a good chance you will, too. And since being overweight increases your chance of having osteoarthritis, gaining weight in later years will make you more susceptible

Where does osteoarthritis usually manifest itself?

Typically, osteoarthritis appears in the large, weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. It also shows up in the hands, neck, and back. But it can happen in any joint in the body.

What are some symptoms of the condition?

Pain, for one. It can range from mild to severe and from intermittent to constant. Stiffness is another big indicator of osteoarthritis. At first your joints may respond to movement and will loosen up, but over time it may become more and more difficult for you to move your joints at all. The muscles around the affected joints may get weaker as the condition progresses, especially in the knee. The affected joints may be swollen and visibly deformed. They may also make cracking and crunching noises when moved.

How can I get rid of osteoarthritis?

You can't reverse the disease, but you can control its symptoms. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may provide relief, and your doctor may recommend home remedies such as heat and/or ice baths. Regular physical exercise helps keeps joints limber. If your osteoarthritis is causing severe discomfort or disability, your doctor may talk to you about having surgery on the affected area.



National Institute on Aging, www.nia.nih.gov.