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Osteoarthritis

Clinical Overview

Reviewed by Joseph Maloney, MD

Overuse or acute trauma to almost any joint can lead to osteoarthritis (OA), a gradual weakening of the cartilage that allows the joint to move fluidly.

Osteoarthritis may also be referred to as radiographic or symptomatic osteoarthritis, according to how it is diagnosed. OA that is diagnosed and monitored through X-rays can be referred to as radiographic osteoarthritis. OA that is assessed and monitored through the evaluation of symptoms can be referred to as symptomatic osteoarthritis.

The condition affects the knees, ankles, hips, and fingers most frequently. Participants in overhead sports, particularly baseball pitchers, and workers in overhead occupations, like painters, are at the highest risk of suffering from osteoarthritis.

The condition leads to a stiff, painful joint, with significant loss of range of motion. At times, osteoarthritis may cause small pieces of cartilage to break off and float around within the joint. These are known as loose bodies, and can be removed in an arthroscopic or open procedure.

Possible Causes

  • Injury
  • Overuse
  • Trauma
  • Obesity

Risk Factors
  • Overhead throwing sports, especially pitching
  • Occupation that stresses the joint
  • Aging (most people over 50 have some signs of osteoarthritis)

Last updated: May-16-07

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