Osteoarthritis is an inflammation of the joints that causes a breakdown in the cartilage covering the bone inside the joint. It usually involves a synovial joint (a joint that is encased in a tough fibrous capsule lined with a membrane that secretes a thick clear synovial fluid). This type of joint connects one bone to another, with a fluid lubricating the surfaces allowing for smooth motion.
The ends of the bones are covered by the cartilage. The cartilage is made of a soft, cushiony material that acts as a shock absorber and prevents the bones from rubbing against one another.
As we get older, the wear and tear of the joints and the body's inability to regenerate the cartilage at the same pace as when were young results in a gradual degeneration of the cartilage. An arthritic joint may be characterised by either an insufficient synovial fluid, causing stiffness, or an excess fluid, causing swelling. When the cartilage has broken down enough to allow the bones to rub against one another, the person will experience significant pain. The body often attempts to repair the joint by producing bony outgrowths at the margins of the affected joints. These spurs can also cause pain and stiffness.
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