Written by Serena Berger
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Osteoarthritis is characterized by a degeneration of the cartilage found in the joints. Cartilage provides a cushion so that the ends of bones do not rub against each other. In its absence, however, many people experience pain and limited movement in the joints because bones are not protected.

Osteoarthritis commonly occurs in older people. The symptoms can vary greatly from some discomfort to complete loss of movement. Joints commonly affected are the hands and joints that bear weight, such as the knees, hip and back. Contrary to popular belief, while age has been identified as a factor that puts people at a greater risk, you will not necessarily experience osteoarthritis as you age.

There are some aspects of your lifestyle that may put you at a greater risk to experience osteoarthritis. Obesity can contribute to osteoarthritis of the knees, as they must bear your weight whenever you stand and walk. People who have had joint injuries may also be at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis in those particular joints.

Diagnosing and Treating Osteoarthritis

Physicians use an exam, a patient's medical history, and X-rays to diagnose osteoarthritis. Most forms of treatment focus on relieving the pain associated with osteoarthritis and improving movement. This can include exercises to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility in the joints, weight control (if necessary), and medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If you cannot tolerate the drugs, you may want to consider trying supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects and fewer reported side effects.

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