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Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions your joints breaks down and wears away. When this happens, the bones rub together and cause damage and pain. In most cases, it takes years for cartilage to break down.
It's hard to know how fast arthritis may progress. You may not have any symptoms for years, until the bones and tissues become damaged. Or symptoms may come and go, stay the same, or get worse over time.
Arthritis can cause problems in any joint in the body. But in most cases, you'll have symptoms in only one or two joints or groups of joints. Arthritis may cause problems in your hands, hips, knees, or feet, and sometimes in your spine. At first, you may only feel pain when you're active. As the disease gets worse, you may also feel pain when you're at rest.
If you have arthritis in your fingers, the joints at the tip or middle part of your fingers may get bigger and form bumps. These are known as Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes.
Even though there is no cure for arthritis, most people can manage their symptoms with medicine and lifestyle changes. But in a few people, arthritis or complications of arthritis may get so bad that they decide to have surgery to replace the worn joint or to fuse the bones together so that the joint won't bend.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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