What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (or arthrosis) is a disorder that affects the joints. It causes joint pain, stiffness, and a slow and progressive decrease in mobility.
In this disease, there is erosion of the cartilage that covers the joints due to a complex interaction of biomechanical, genetic, and biochemical factors that affect the cartilage itself, the bone, and the membrane that covers the joint.
How many people are affected by Osteoarthritis?
It is calculated that up to 70% of the population over 50 years-old have radiological signs of osteoarthritis in some joint of the body such as the spine, the knees, hips, or the hands. On reaching 75 years, up to 80% of the population have some radiological sign of osteoarthritis in different joints. However, very often these findings are not associated with the presence of symptoms or day to day problems.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the progressive degradation of the joint cartilage. First, it becomes fragile and brittle, and then it becomes thinner and, finally, disappears and leaves the bone uncovered.
As the cartilage disappears, the bone becomes denser, widens its support base, and grows at the ends in the form of a “parrot beak”, and the so-called osteophytes (bone spurs) visible in the x-rays.
The destruction of the cartilage also leads to the dislodged particles inducing an inflammation in the membrane that covers the joints (synovial membrane), which causes pain, swelling and functional impairment, and speeds up the destruction of the joint.
What happens in the cartilage?
Although osteoarthritis is a generalized process that compromises all the structures that make up the joint, the joint cartilage plays the leading role in this disease.
The first visible change is the loss of the smooth and homogeneous appearance of the cartilage due to the reduction in the number of cells that comprise it. Later, fissures and small cracks develop that are transformed into deep vertical grooves that reach the underlying bone. On the edges of these grooves, a repairing action occurs. Finally, there is a progressive disintegration of the cartilage, with direct exposure of the bone below it. This gives rise to the release of fragments of cartilage (free bodies) and bone towards the joint cavity that can cause an inflammatory reaction in the joint itself.
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