What is it?

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is a joint disease in which the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. The loss of cartilage causes the bones under the cartilage to rub together.

Who is affected?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 20 million people in the United States.

While both men and women have the disease, it is more common in men before age 45 and more common in women after age 451.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint.

What can I do to treat and prevent osteoarthritis?

OTC medications can be used to control the symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as pain and swelling.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce pain and swelling, however:

  • They can cause stomach irritation
  • May interact adversely with other drugs
  • People over age 65 and anyone with a history of ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding should use 
    NSAIDs with caution and only after consulting with a doctor.

Acetaminophen, which helps control pain, does not irritate the stomach and is less likely to cause long-term side effects.

People with liver disease or those taking blood-thinning medicines or NSAIDs should use acetaminophen with caution and only after consulting with a doctor.

There are also topical creams, rubs and sprays that may alleviate pain when applied directly to the skin.

The following are examples of OTC medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products
Reduce inflammation NSAIDs Ibuprofen 
Example: Advil®
Pain Reliever Acetaminophen
Pain reliever - oral NSAIDs Ibuprofen 
Example: Advil®
Pain Reliever Acetaminophen

Pain reliever - Topical

Pain Reliever

Trolamine Salicylate 
Example: Myoflex®


* Active ingredients: ingredients in a medication that produce a therapeutic response

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1 National Institute of Arthritis and Muskulosketal and Skin Diseases at www.niams.nih.gov

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.