Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is among the most common forms of arthritis in the United States. It begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage and will eventually damage the joint cavity, surrounding tissue and bone if left untreated.

The result of age, obesity or previous injury, OA is a progressive disease that may result in limited range of motion, small bony growths known as spurs, and general joint pain during periods of activity or after long periods of inactivity.

The finger joints and the thumb joints are the joints most affected by OA among all of the upper body joints.

Risk Factors
While the primary cause of OA is age, as a result of increased water content of the once protein-rich cartilage that breaks the cartilage down, it may also be the result of excessive wear and tear - load-bearing joints of an obese individual, or athlete placing continuous stress on certain joints. The disease may also result from a previous injury that created over time an unstable joint environment.

Diagnosis and Treatment
In treating arthritis, the key is early diagnosis and joint protection. Depending on the severity of the condition, conservative treatment may entail rehabilitative exercises, anti-inflammatory medication and activity modification. Severe joint deterioration may require reconstructive surgery or total joint replacement.