Osteoarthritis Complications

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on August 25, 2010
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD on June 25, 2014

Complications of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of joint inflammation. Thought to be caused by wear and tear on the cartilage, it usually becomes worse with age. Without treatment, chronic pain from OA can have significant effects on your quality of life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Knee OA is a leading cause of disability among adults.
  • Approximately 80 percent of people with OA have some movement limitation.
  • One-quarter of people with OA cannot perform the major activities of daily life.

Ways Osteoarthritis Can Affect Your Life

For many people, OA is a source of chronic pain. Chronic pain can be exhausting and debilitating. It can also lead to problems with anxiety and depression.

In addition to causing pain, there are a number of ways in which OA can impact your life.

Sleep Disruption

Achy, tender joints interfere with restful, restorative sleep. When the distractions of the day are gone, pain can seem intensified. Stiffness and limited range of motion can also keep you from getting comfortable in bed.

Reduced Quality of Life

Pain and stiffness can decrease the desire to be active. You may stop wanting to participate in activities that used to bring you joy.

Arthritis may cause a decreased ability to exercise or even walk. The lack of activity doesn’t only limit your enjoyment of life. It could cause unhealthy weight gain. This, in turn, could exacerbate OA symptoms and lead to an increased risk of other complications, including:

  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • heart disease

Reduced Productivity

Many people miss multiple days of work per year because of chronic joint pain. Arthritis also can result in a decreased ability to perform normal everyday activities such as:

  • household chores
  • cooking
  • getting dressed

In general, function can be improved with treatment. However, some people with OA may need assistance getting through their day.

Long-Term Outlook for People with Osteoarthritis

Untreated OA usually gets worse with time. Although deaths from OA are rare, it is a significant cause of disability among adults. Therefore, it is important to talk to a doctor if OA is impacting your quality of life. Surgical options such as joint replacements can restore function to arthritic joints. Pain medication and lifestyle changes can also reduce your symptoms and improve your ability to get around.

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