Osteoarthritis is the most widespread type of arthritis globally. It affects more than 32.5 million adults in the US and is a major cause of disability. Therefore, people often ask, “Is osteoarthritis an autoimmune disease?” No, it is not. Let’s explain why:

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or OA. It occurs when the protective cartilage covering the ends of your bones in the joints wears down over time.

Cartilage normally acts like a shock absorber and lubricant. It helps bones move smoothly and safely within the joints. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down. This causes bones to rub against each other during joint movements.

Is Osteoarthritis an Inflammatory Disease?

Researchers have been studying Osteoarthritis (OA) for decades. Recent research suggests that OA behaves like an autoinflammatory disease. It develops where chondrocytes and synoviocytes play a key role in mediating responses. Patients with OA often have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines in their blood and joints. This highlights inflammation’s significant role in the disease’s development.

In OA, joints can swell due to synovial effusion or thickening, a clear sign of synovitis. Numerous studies link synovitis with OA, emphasizing its clinical importance. Patients can experience flare-ups with joint swelling, pain at rest and morning stiffness.

Advanced imaging techniques like MRI with contrast and ultrasound are effective for studying synovitis in OA. Synovitis and joint swelling increase the risk of cartilage loss, even in joints initially unaffected by OA.

Research shows that macrophages in the synovium play a crucial role in OA’s pathogenesis, not merely as a consequence. Mechanical stress on joints can trigger inflammatory responses.

Certain OA patients also exhibit metabolic disorders like diabetes or obesity. These trigger increased inflammation throughout the body and in affected joints. Obesity, for example, significantly raises the risk of OA in the hands, knees, and hips.

Aging elevates inflammatory responses in OA due to increased cytokine production from senescent cells. This chronic, low-intensity inflammation associated with aging is termed “inflammaging.”

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis affects the whole joint. It alters the bones and breaks down the tissues that keep your joints stable. It often causes swelling and long-lasting pain, which can make everyday activities challenging.

You can’t completely avoid osteoarthritis. However, you can take steps to lower your chances of developing this ‘wear and tear’ disease. These include staying active with regular exercise, maintaining good posture, and managing your weight.

Medical Treatments for Osteoarthritis

There is no permanent cure for osteoarthritis. However, it is highly manageable. You can control it with the help of various OTC drugs and physical therapies. Treatments that provide long-term relief are:

  • Cortisone Injections
    Cortisone injections can relieve joint pain for a few weeks. The doctor numbs the area around the joint, inserts a needle, and injects the medication. However, you can only have three or four of these injections a year. They can worsen joint damage over time.
  • Lubrication Injections
    Hyaluronic acid injections may provide cushioning in the knee and relieve pain. However, some studies suggest these injections may not be more effective than a placebo. Hyaluronic acid mimics a natural component found in joint fluid.
  • Realigning Bones
    If osteoarthritis has damaged one side of your knee more than the other, an osteotomy might help. In this procedure, a surgeon cuts the bone above or below the knee and removes or adds a wedge of bone to shift weight away from the damaged part of the knee.
  • Joint Replacement
    In joint replacement surgery, the surgeon removes the damaged joint surfaces and replaces them with plastic and metal parts. Risks of the surgery include infections and blood clots. Additionally, artificial joints can wear out or come loose and need to be replaced eventually.

Final Thoughts

Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage in your joints wears down. While autoimmune disease is when your immune system attacks your healthy cells. Therefore, the answer to “Is osteoarthritis an autoimmune disease?” is a clear no.

Its always good to consult a pain management specialist if you have such a chronic condition. Visit Dr. Raza Jafri at Genesis Pain Clinic. Our board-certified professional is skilled in both diagnostic and needle-guided procedures. Call us at (913) 871-9888 for an appointment.

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