Information on Osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis?

Information on Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis causes pain and makes moving the affected joint difficult.

It is a chronic inflammatory illness that affects the joints. It is normally located in the knees, hips, hands and spinal chord but particularly affects weight-supporting body parts. Joints are structures that enable two bones to connect and are mainly composed of cartilage, the synovial membrane and the subchondral bone. Cartilage is the tissue responsible for covering surfaces in contact with the bones, thereby cushioning any impacts and enabling the joint to move.

Osteoarthritis leads to a loss of cartilage, causes the bones to rub together and leads to inflammation in the synovial membrane. As a result, the patient feels pain, experiences swelling or witnesses his/her joints becoming deformed and can no longer execute certain movements normally, like walking or going upstairs, for example.

A few details:

• It affects over seven million Spaniards.

• It costs the Administration 4,700 million Euro a year:

- 46%: welfare costs.

- 22%: leave from work.

- 13%: hospital stays.

- 7%: diagnostic tests.

- 5%: drugs.

• It is the cause of 35% of primary health care appointments.

• It is responsible for 30% of work disabilities, both permanent and temporary, in Spain.

• In 2020 it became the fourth highest cause of disability due to the increase in life expectancy.

• Metabolic syndrome (a medical condition combining a set of cardiovascular risk factors including obesity, high blood pressure, lipid disorders, insulin resistance and high sugar levels) trebles in the population with knee osteoarthritis and doubles in those with hand osteoarthritis.

Despite this, it is not perceived as a relevant pathology at social, medical or economic level. For many years, osteoarthritis was only perceived as an inevitable problem associated with aging and physical strain.

Risk factors:

• Age: 28% of the over 60s population has osteoarthritis.

• Genetics: genetic inheritance is estimated in 40% of cases.

• Feminine hormones: the prevalence of osteoarthritis trebles with the onset of the menopause in women over 45 years old, due to the drop in the estrogen level.

• Over-use of the joint: due to work strain or in elite athletes (29% of footballers run the risk of developing osteoarthritis).

• Trauma.

• Obesity.