Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation1. Because this disease gets worse over time, it is also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis.

Knee osteoarthritis is caused by a breakdown of the knee joint’s articular cartilage, a fibrous tissue that covers the bones in the joint. Cartilage keeps the bones from rubbing directly against each other, enabling easy, pain free movement. When this cartilage breaks down over time, the bones begin to rub against each other (also called “bone-on-bone”). The body responds by creating bone spurs and inflammation causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.

Osteoarthritis is known by many different names, including degenerative joint disease, ostoarthrosis, hypertrophic arthritis and degenerative arthritis.

What causes knee cartilage to break down? Even though Osteoarthritis is very common and has been around for a long time, the cause is still not completely known, and there is no cure. There are many different factors that can determine whether or not you get Osteoarthritis. This includes age, weight, a history of knee injury, a malaligned joint, overuse or heredity. Your knee Osteoarthritis could be caused by one or several of these factors.

Learn more about your knee by viewing the following video, “Learn About Knee Osteoarthritis (OA) .”

People have suffered from osteoarthritis for a long time. The discovery of skeletons with osteoarthritis indicates ice-aged humans also suffered from the disease.2 Today, an estimated 27 million Americans live with osteoarthritis, and a projected 6.5 million people will have knee osteoarthritis over the next several years.3 One in two people will develop osteoarthritis in a knee before they reach the age of 85. The risk approaches two in three for people who are overweight.4

Although osteoarthritis can affect anyone at any age, it is most commonly linked to getting older. osteoarthritis usually appears after age 45. Under 55 years of age, men are more likely to have osteoarthritis than women. After age 55, women are more affected. Overall, more women have osteoarthritis than men. It is found commonly in all races and backgrounds.5

Most people with knee osteoarthritis have pain, joint stiffness (especially in the morning), and swelling and tenderness in one or both knees. For some people, osteoarthritis can become completely debilitating.

For a correct diagnosis, it is an important to see an orthopedic doctor who will take into account your symptoms and your medical history, examine your joints and order diagnostic tests. This may include blood work, X rays, a CT scan or an MRI for a better understanding of the anatomy of your joint and its condition.

Orthopedics (also spelled orthopaedics in British English), is a branch of medicine that focuses on injuries and diseases of your body’s musculoskeletal system. This includes your bones and joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles and nerves.

An orthopedic doctor, also called an orthopedic surgeon or orthopedist, treats problems of the musculoskeletal system. This includes diagnosing your injury or condition and determining treatment options, like medication, exercises, bracing, injections or surgery. Orthopedic physicians also manage rehabilitation after surgery to control pain and restore movement, and provide prevention information to help reduce the likelihood of injury or slow the progression of a disease.

Orthopedic doctors are either medical doctors (MDs), or doctors of osteopathy (DOs). After medical school, they complete five years of residency in orthopedics at a major medical center, and one optional year of specialized education. Orthopedic surgeons may specialize in specific fields, like sports medicine, pediatrics or trauma. They may also focus on certain anatomical areas, like the foot and ankle, knee, hip or spine.

Orthopedic surgeons must meet state licensure requirements and pass examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. They must also complete annual continuing education programs in order to stay current with their knowledge and skills.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), there are more than 20,400 actively practicing orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. Orthopedic doctors may work in a clinic, large hospital or sports medicine facility.

Your orthopedic physician may recommend different treatment options depending on the severity of your osteoarthritis, the impact on your joints, how much pain you experience and your activity level.

Recommendations may include losing weight, nutritional supplements, injections, exercise and knee bracing.