Everything about the difference between osteoarthritis and polyarthritis

The cartilage of every joint in your body may become thinner and more brittle as you get older. Usually this wear process occurs only in one joint. You then suffer from osteoarthritis or mono-articular osteoarthritis. Sometimes this wear process can also occur in several joints at the same time, for example in your left knee and right hip. There is talk about poly-osteoarthritis. Aging is a risk factor in getting both osteoarthritis and polyarthritis. In some cases, polyarthritis is not associated with any of the typical causes of mono-articular osteoarthritis. Then, this form of joint wear is classified as an autoimmune disease. This is a group of disorders – including rheumatoid arthritis – in which the immune system attacks the healthy cells of the body. In this case the cartilage.

What exactly is osteoarthritis?

PolyarthritisIn osteoarthritis, there is wear of only one of the joints of your body. This may include the hip, knee, hand and fingers, elbow, shoulder, spine or feet. As a result of cartilage damage, prostaglandins and cytokines may be released in the synovial fluid. These factors can form painful inflammation joints in the joints and further stimulate them. These inflammatory factors can sometimes reach other joints through the blood circulation. This creates new joint inflammations that can affect the cartilage, inducing osteoarthritis at the new location as well. There is then no mention of polyarthritis, because the new joint problem is the result of the first. Moreover, in this form of osteoarthritis, the symptoms do not occur in multiple joints at the same time.

The most important risk factors of osteoarthritis are continuous overloading or incorrect strain on the joints, weight issues, and damage to the joints due to an accident or injury. In addition, the wearing of the joints is a natural process with aging, making it an older age condition.

What is polyoarthritis?

In the case of polyarthritis, the wear process occurs simultaneously in two or more joints. Usually, this condition has the same causes as mono-articular osteoarthritis. The cartilage in many places in the body deteriorates in quality and quantity, which can cause symptoms such as pain, stiffness and swelling. However, doctors cannot always make the connection between wear and tear in multiple joints and osteoarthritis. In other words, wrong postures, weight issues, or aging play no role in the development of polyarthritis. Something else is clearly going on. A disruption of the autoimmune system then causes the wear and tear.

The mechanism of action of the immune system

Three lines of defense make up your immune system. When you are born, you naturally have an immune system. This is your innate or natural defense against harmful bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. The first line of defense is a physical barrier formed by your skin, stomach acid, mucous membranes and your intestinal flora. The second line of defense is an a-specific immune system, which acts to eliminate pathogens after they invade your body. Finally, your body has an acquired or ‘learning’ defense system. This is called the immune system, which responds to one specific pathogen at a time. After first contact with the intruder – for example a flu virus – the characteristics are stored in a kind of memory. After a subsequent contact, the immune system can respond more quickly.

In an autoimmune disease, the acquired immune system has been disrupted. Due to a still unknown cause, information about, for example, the body’s own cartilage cells, is also stored in the memory. These are seen as intruders and then attacked. The immune system turns against the own body cells. It generates autoantibodies, which in the case of polyarthritis, attack the cartilage of multiple joints at the same time.


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