Is Osteoarthritis An Autoimmune Disease?

Arthritis (a joint disease) has several types, and osteoarthritis or OA is the most common type. According to a classic theory, OA is related to a condition of when the cartilage degenerates and breaks down as the age. In fact, it is more common to be found in people aged 45 or older. But is it also a kind of autoimmune disease?

Understanding autoimmune diseases in general!

Autoimmune disease is a condition of when the immune system of the body doesn’t work as well as it should. And there are numerous different types of this disease.

Normally, the immune system is so essential to protect the body from harmful substances called antigens such as harmful virus and bacteria. But in autoimmune disorder, the immune system works abnormally (this can be overactive response to thing that should be considered normal for most people or attacking the wrong target such as the healthy cells /tissues of the body).

There are some theories proposed, but currently – nobody knows exactly the reason behind autoimmune disorder.

image_illustration220The abnormality of immune system may cause:

  1. Decreased function of certain organ.
  2. Damage to one or more kinds of body tissue.
  3. An abnormally organ growth.

In other words, the abnormal function of immune system can affect other organs of the body. Skin, muscles, pancreas, thyroid, blood vessels, connective tissues, joints (such as joints of knee, spine, and hip), and red blood cells are common organs affected in autoimmune disorder.

The symptoms that appear if you have this disease are dependent on the kind of the autoimmune disorder itself and the affected organ (location in where the response of immune system abnormality occurs). But in general – malaise (general ill-feeling), fever, and fatigue are usually the common symptoms.

Since the exact cause of autoimmune diseases in most cases is not known, the disease is usually not easy to be treated. Even most of them can become chronic and incurable – but many of them are treatable.

Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease!

Joint pain and stiffness are very common in OA. Even in severe case, it can cause swelling in the affected joint. But the symptoms of OA also can be found in other forms of arthritis.

Therefore, the diagnosis of the disease is usually not enough from analyzing the symptoms. However physical examination is still the first line of procedure in diagnosing this generative joint disease.

Age usually plays a key role in most cases of OA, as noted before. However, it also can affect young adults but usually with a specific trigger, such as injury in sport activity that causes cartilage damage in the knee or another joint.

How about the role of immune system abnormality in OA?

The good news, OA has nothing to do with the function of your body immune system. But there is also a kind of arthritis associated with autoimmune disorder – this type is called rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

OA and RA is a joint disease and can cause similar symptoms – but they are different and treated differently. Read this complete guide to see the differences between OA and RA.

Citations /references:

http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/autoimmune-disorders