Why Do We Get Arthritis?

Why Do We Get Arthritis?

Roughly 10% of the population of the United States is affected by osteoarthritis. While there are known causes, such as post-traumatic arthritis and congenital abnormalities involving weightbearing joints, the overwhelming majority of patients who develop osteoarthritis do so without a clearcut etiology or trigger to the onset of their arthritic condition.

There are two broad categories of arthritis. First and most common is osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. This condition affects multiple joints but is more common in weightbearing joints such as the hip and the knee. It is characterized by a gradual loss of articular cartilage (the cartilage that covers the end of our bones at the joint) and eventually leads to wearing through of the cartilage on the end of the bone until the underlying bone is exposed. Once this happens, we describe this as end-stage arthritic changes with bone rubbing against bone causing pain, deformity, and decreased motion and function.

Inflammatory arthritis is likely an autoimmune type of illness that is triggered by an inciting factor such as a virus or other “trigger.” It leads to an inflammatory reaction most commonly within the joint whereby our immune system leads an assault on the articular cartilage via a cascade of enzymes that digests the articular surface of the joint. There are a variety of medications that can blunt the inflammatory changes associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory types of arthritis. Consultation with your family doctor and/or a rheumatologist will help determine which particular drug is right for you with regard to this type of disease.

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