How Osteoarthritis Works

Whether primary or secondary – and almost regardless of the source trigger – osteoarthritis begins with the following processes within the affected joints:

  • Swelling of the cartilage, and increase in water content
  • Loosening of the related collagen framework
  • Release of enzymes that degrade cartilage, even as the body attempts to produce more cartilage-building proteins

Later mechanisms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Increased cartilage degradation, outpacing protein production
  • Further weakening and breakdown of cartilage, resulting in bone compression and joint-space narrowing
  • Development of fissures and cracks in cartilage that cannot be repaired adequately
  • Exposure of underlying bone to synovial fluid, with further compression resulting in bone cysts
  • Unnatural bone thickening and reformation, and resultant growth of bone spurs

Despite the influence of specific risk factors described, it should be noted that these OA-related processes follow a history of cartilage changes that are, overall in humans, relatively natural. Cracking, erosion and eventual loss of cartilage, resulting in compensating bone growths and stiffening, progress slowly but surely over time as people age; in primary and secondary OA, the process simply progresses quicker than would otherwise be the case without the triggers found in primary and secondary OA.