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What is a Cartilage Damage?
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What is a Cartilage Damage?

As cartilage is a highly organised structure but does not have its own blood supply, it is particularly difficult to restore or duplicate once it is damaged or lost. Injury to any part of this complex system can disrupt the functional properties of cartilage:

  • If articular cartilage is involved, this may lead to further degeneration of the joint
  • If airway cartilage is involved, this may lead to breathing problems
  • If cartilage of the ear or nose is involved, cosmetic problems might result.

Articular cartilage can be damaged through accidents, such as a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), or degenerate slowly over time, eventually leading to osteoarthritis. Poor alignment of the joint, excessive weight, excessive activity, overuse, or injury can all cause cartilage to wear away.

If the cartilage is damaged or worn, the joint becomes painful and stiff, and with reduced range of movement. In severe osteoarthritis, the hyaline cartilage can completely wear away, leaving the affected joint without its cushion. This causes the bones to rub against each other.

Osteophytes, or bone spurs, may also form at the margins of the joint due to the extra stress on the ends of the bones. This leads to significant pain, loss of movement, and poor function.

The damage can start as a local ‘pothole’ in the cartilage – called a cartilage lesion. When a lesion is left untreated, it will most likely enlarge over with time until all the surrounding cartilage is worn away.

Since cartilage has a minimal ability to repair itself, even in small lesions, if left untreated deterioration to the joint surface may result that can lead to osteoarthritis.


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