Cartilage & Arthritis
What causes osteoarthritis? Dr. Michael Lehmann
Excessive strain: Severe joint strain, of the type seen in performance sports, can over time cause increased wear of the cartilage. Joint deformities, such as bow legs or knock knees, can also cause individual joint areas to be over-stressed, leading to osteoarthritis. Being overweight can make excessive strain on the joints even worse, driving the arthritis process forward. This is particularly true for the hip or knee joints, which are already under a lot of strain.
Injuries: Sporting injuries are a common cause of osteoarthritis. The injuries to the cartilage tissue do not even have to be direct to cause problems. If a cruciate ligament tear ultimately produces an unstable joint, the increased friction between the parts of the joint will inevitably result in osteoarthritis. A similar principle applies to injuries affecting the meniscus, which forms an important buffer in the knee and its loss can lead to considerable damage to the cartilage in the joint.
Increasing age: As with most structures in the body, cartilage is also subject to natural ageing processes. The tissue becomes more brittle, the water content decreases and its resistance diminishes. So as they age, many people find that they have increased wear of the joint cartilage.
Hereditary causes: Genetic causes can play a major role in some types of osteoarthritis. One example of this is Heberden's arthritis, which occurs in the joints of the fingers and typically runs in families.
Rheumatic diseases: Just like many other rheumatoid conditions, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can lead to inflammation of the joints, the result of which is often widespread cartilage or joint damage.
Other causes: Metabolic problems (gout) or bacterial joint inflammations.
Symptoms of cartilage damage
Cartilage itself is insensitive to pain. The pain felt comes from the reaction in the adjacent tissue. Unfortunately, the pain therefore only becomes noticeable when the layer of cartilage has been worn away or is already damaged.
Acute pain and restricted movement can be symptoms of cartilage damage. Other typical symptoms of cartilage damage include pain on stressing the joint. The more the cartilage damage advances, the more severe the pain. Pain can occur at rest. At the end stage, the body restricts the joint's mobility.
Early detection is important in order to be able to instigate regenerative measures for osteoarthritis.
Once the layer of cartilage has worn away, the only remaining options are surgical.