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 (Standardization of Osteoarthritis Definitions). 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.

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. 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.

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 (Chronic rheumatic conditions). Eleven percent of adults with knee OA need help with personal care and 14% require help with routine needs (Guccione AA, et al. 2011).

Feature image author – Scientific Animations