What Is Generalized Osteoarthritis?

Question: What Is Generalized Osteoarthritis?

Generalized osteoarthritis is yet another subset of osteoarthritis. Most people know the meaning of primary osteoarthritis or secondary osteoarthritis, but generalized osteoarthritis is a lesser known term.


Subsets of Osteoarthritis

Primary osteoarthritis is characterized by joint pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, and weakness. Primary osteoarthritis is also referred to as idiopathic, meaning, there is no known underlying or predisposing cause.

Primary osteoarthritis is recognized as the most common form of osteoarthritis.

Secondary osteoarthritis has an underlying or predisposing cause. The underlying conditions that cause secondary osteoarthritis include injury, overuse of a joint, rheumatoid arthritis or other arthritis-related conditions, obesity, and more.

Generalized osteoarthritis, also referred to as primary generalized osteoarthritis, is characterized by involvement of three or more joints or groups of joints. Most commonly, generalized osteoarthritis occurs in the spine, knees, hips, base of the thumb in the first CMC (carpometacarpophalangeal joint), tips of the fingers, and big toe. The wrists, elbows, and shoulders are typically not involved in generalized osteoarthritis.

Other Facts About Generalized Osteoarthritis

  • A gene defect that causes primary generalized osteoarthritis has been discovered.
  • Generalized osteoarthritis develops spontaneously.
  • Generalized osteoarthritis is more prevalent in patients with advanced knee osteoarthritis than in patients with advanced hip osteoarthritis.
  • Older women are more affected by generalized osteoarthritis than any other group.
  • Some researchers believe there is a correlation between the presence of Heberden's nodes and generalized osteoarthritis.


    Harrison's Internal Medicine. Chapter 312. Osteoarthritis. Kenneth D. Brandt. Accessed May 1, 2008.

    Investigations in generalized osteoarthritis. Part 1: Genetic study of Heberden's nodes. CAT.INIST. Irlenbusch U et al.

    Prevalence of generalized osteoarthritis in patients with advanced hip and knee osteoarthritis: The Ulm Osteoarthritis Study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Dec 1998;57:717-723.

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