Osteoarthritis is a form of degenerative arthritis that is normally associated with older age, but can also affect younger people due to joint injury, joint deformity or obesity.
The initial trigger for the disease is cartilage damage, which causes chondrocytes to attempt to repair cartilage and release inflammatory chemicals in the process. If the damage is ongoing, these processes continue and eventually the underlying bone can become exposed to the same damage as the cartilage was subject to. Remodelling of bone at the joint surface can lead to the formation of bony outgrowths as cells attempt to repair the damaged joint, but these can cause pain and limit movement of the affected joint.
For this reason, osteoarthritis should be referred to as a condition of “wear and repair” not “wear and tear” as it is commonly referred as. Management of the condition should focus around lifestyle changes initially, such as weight loss if appropriate and muscle strengthening exercises to support the joint. Should these not prove effective, joint replacement can be offered, but this has its risks and isn’t always successful.
For a summary of the disease, please see below.