The cause of osteoarthritis is not completely known but is associated with the breakdown of the articular cartilage that covers the gliding surfaces of the bones in certain joints. Injury to the joint can also be a known cause. In certain joints, normally smooth articular cartilage (tread) becomes roughened and pitted. Exactly why the articular cartilage begins to break down and the normally sliding surfaces become pitted and irregular is not known, but it is felt to be a time-related degenerative process in nature and occurs along with degeneration of the other body tissues which is all part of the aging process.
Again, do not confuse osteoarthritis with rheumatoid arthritis or any of the other inflammatory types of arthritis, such as, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, and other diseased which attack the lining of the knee joint which subsequently attacks the joint surfaces. Osteoarthritis is purely and simply a degenerative phenomenon secondary to trauma and/or normal use over the period of years. The symptoms of osteoarthritis vary greatly. For many people, it is only a minor, temporary nuisance which can be relieved with an occasional aspirin. For others, it can be a very uncomfortable and painful existence.
Activities of daily living and even sleeping can be difficult. Some people have more severe symptoms than others and, in fact, the x-rays are not a good indicator of how much the patient is suffering. There is, therefore, great variation in the amount of discomfort experienced in individuals. Treatment goals have to be individualized for each individual patient. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured and the degenerative process cannot be stopped. However, a balanced treatment program can reduce pain and improve joint function and allow the patient to live a more active and pleasurable life. Arthritis does not only affect the knee joint, it affects most joints in the body. The knee and hip are two of the most significantly and frequently involved joints.