Osteoarthritis is a major source of pain, disability, and socioeconomic cost worldwide. The epidemiology of the disorder is complex and multifactorial, with genetic, biological, and biomechanical components. Aetiological factors are also joint specific. Joint replacement is an effective treatment for symptomatic end-stage disease, although functional outcomes can be poor and the lifespan of prostheses is limited. Consequently, the focus is shifting to disease prevention and the treatment of early osteoarthritis. This task is challenging since conventional imaging techniques can detect only quite advanced disease and the relation between pain and structural degeneration is not close. Nevertheless, advances in both imaging and biochemical markers off er potential for diagnosis and as outcome measures for new treatments. Joint-preserving interventions under development include lifestyle modification and pharmaceutical and surgical modalities. Some show potential, but at present few have proven ability to arrest or delay disease progression.