Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Osteoarthritis Health Center

Font Size

Inflammation May Affect Osteoarthritis

Findings Could Lead to New Drugs, Research Strategies
WebMD Health News

Aug. 1, 2003 -- New research is challenging the long-held notion that inflammation is not a cause of osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.

If confirmed, the early findings could have implications for the development of drugs that slow the progression of a joint disease that affects roughly half of Americans over the age of 50.

Genetics and joint wear-and-tear are known to be factors in the development of osteoarthritis, but other causes remain unidentified. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, a joint disease that is more common in young adults, inflammation has not been thought to drive osteoarthritis. Instead, it is characterized by degeneration of joint cartilage and is considered a degenerative rather than an inflammatory joint disease.

Which Came First? Inflammation or Osteoarthritis

"There has been increasing evidence in recent years of an inflammatory component to osteoarthritis, but inflammation is widely believed to be a consequence of joint damage and not the other way around," researcher David A. Walsh, PhD, of the U.K.'s University of Nottingham tells WebMD.

Walsh and colleagues looked for evidence of joint inflammation among patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. Specifically, the researchers examined the tissue lining the joints, known as synovial tissue. Synovial inflammation plays a major role in rheumatoid arthritis.

Tissue samples from roughly one in three patients showed evidence of severe inflammation. These samples also showed new blood vessel formation, which has been linked to inflammatory joint disease. The findings are published in the August issue of the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Walsh says a much larger percentage of tissue samples showed evidence of less severe inflammation, and he adds that the synovial inflammation was not confined to patients with extensive joint damage or even the most advanced cases of osteoarthritis.

Reduce Inflammation, Slow the Disease?

He calls for further studies to examine the role of inflammation and blood vessel formation in the progression of osteoarthritis, with one aim being the development of drugs to slow disease progression.

Medications known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS) are already being used to prevent joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis, in which inflammation plays a major role, but no such preventive treatments exist for osteoarthritis.

Today on WebMD

elderly hands
Even with arthritis pain.
woman exercising
Here are 7 easy tips.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
Keep Joints Healthy
Chronic Pain Healthcheck
close up of man with gut
man knee support
woman with cold compress
Man doing tai chi
hand gripping green rubber ball
person walking with assistance