Osteoarthritis used to be seen as a result of wear and tear of the joints.
However, the disease is now regarded as having several subtypes, with some being more aggressive and related to immune mechanisms, resulting in “inflammation against self” and an erosion of the cartilage and adjacent bone – called erosive osteoarthritis.
The mechanism is a complex system of interacting mechanical, biological, biochemical and enzymatic feedback loops. When one or more of these fail, osteoarthritis occurs.
Anything that changes the microenvironment of the bone cell may initiate the chain of events which lead to osteoarthritis, i.e. congenital joint abnormalities, genetic defects, infectious processes, metabolic processes and neurological disease.
Trauma to a joint may initiate osteoarthritis, including prolonged overuse of a joint or group of joints.
Osteoarthritis has a large tendency to be a genetically primed disease, especially in the end joints of the fingers and the spine.
Drinking milk may slow knee arthritis in women
Sport and osteoarthritis
Reviewed by Dr Ingrid Louw, MBChB, MMed (Int), rheumatologist/physician, (private practice), June 2011