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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

(continued)

How Does Osteoarthritis Affect People? continued...

Osteoarthritis affects different people differently. Although in some people it progresses quickly, in most individuals joint damage develops gradually over years. In some people, osteoarthritis is relatively mild and interferes little with day-to-day-life; in others, it causes significant pain and disability.

While osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints, its effects are not just physical. In many people with osteoarthritis, lifestyle and finances also decline.

Lifestyle effects include

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • feelings of helplessness
  • limitations on daily activities
  • job limitations
  • difficulty participating in everyday personal and family joys and responsibilities.

Financial effects include

  • the cost of treatment
  • wages lost because of disability.

Fortunately, most people with osteoarthritis live active, productive lives despite these limitations. They do so by using treatment strategies such rest and exercise, pain relief medications, education and support programs, learning self-care, and having a “good attitude.”

Osteoarthritis Basics: The Joint and Its Parts

A joint is the point where two or more bones are connected. With a few exceptions (in the skull and pelvis, for example), joints are designed to allow movement between the bones and to absorb shock from movements like walking or repetitive motions. These movable joints are made up of the following parts:

Cartilage: a hard but slippery coating on the end of each bone. Cartilage, which breaks down and wears away in osteoarthritis, is described in more detail on the next page.

Joint capsule: a tough membrane sac that encloses all the bones and other joint parts.

Synovium (sin-O-vee-um): a thin membrane inside the joint capsule that secretes synovial fluid.

Synovial fluid: a fluid that lubricates the joint and keeps the cartilage smooth and healthy.

A Healthy Joint

Healthy Joint

In a healthy joint, the ends of bones are encased in smooth cartilage. Together, they are protected by a joint capsule lined with a synovial membrane that produces synovial fluid. The capsule and fluid protect the cartilage, muscles, and connective tissues.

A Joint With Severe Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis Joint

 

With osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes worn away. Spurs grow out from the edge of the bone, and synovial fluid increases. Altogether, the joint feels stiff and sore.

Ligaments, tendons, and muscles are tissues that surround the bones and joints, and allow the joints to bend and move. Ligaments are tough, cord-like tissues that connect one bone to another. Tendons are tough, fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones. Muscles are bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerves, either relax or contract to produce movement.

Cartilage: The Key to Healthy Joints

Cartilage is 65 to 80 percent water. The remaining three components – collagen, proteoglycans, and chondrocytes – are described below.

  • collagen(KAHL-uh-jen): A family of fibrous proteins, collagens are the building blocks of skin, tendon, bone, and other connective tissues.

  • proteoglycans(PRO-tee-uh-GLY-kanz): Made up of proteins and sugars, strands of proteoglycans interweave with collagens and form a mesh-like tissue. This allows cartilage to flex and absorb physical shock.

  • chondrocytes(KAHN-druh-sytz): Found throughout the cartilage, chondrocytes are cells that produce cartilage and help it stay healthy as it grows. Sometimes, however, they release substances called enzymes that destroy collagen and other proteins. Researchers are trying to learn more about chondrocytes.

 


WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

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