What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disorder affecting movable joints which is characterized by cell stress and extracellular matrix degradation. It is initiated by micro- and macro-injuries that activate maladaptive repair responses including proinflammatory pathways of innate immunity.

The disease manifests first by an abnormal joint tissue metabolism, followed by anatomic, and/or physiologic alterations such as cartilage degradation, bone remodeling, osteophyte formation, joint inflammation and loss of normal joint function, that can culminate in illness[1]. Most often, OA occurs in the knee and hip joints, as well as in the hands, but can affect all the joints of the body.

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The main symptoms of OA are pain, swelling and stiffness, with pain being the main factor driving the individuals to seek medical attention. OA pain has been described as a dull, aching pain that over time becomes more constant. Short episodes of more intense pain are also experienced in many individuals[2]. In some cases, it has a significant impact on sleep, fatigue, mood, function and mobility. The resulting physical limitations may lead to loss of participation and withdrawal from usual social, community and occupational activities[3].

The global impact of OA constitutes a major challenge for health systems. It affects around 30% of the population over 45 years, and the number of cases increases from year to year. The impact of arthritis on individuals is also significant. Globally, 80% of those with OA will have limitations in movement, and 25% cannot perform their major daily activities of life[4]. Eleven percent of adults with knee OA need help with personal care and 14% require help with routine needs[5].

Feature image author – Scientific Animations

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