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Cartilage is a tough and flexible substance that is found throughout the body and has a variety of functions.
- lines joints (that make up movable joints);
- and gives structure to:
- bones - is mostly converted to bone in adult
- the ears,
- nose,
- bronchial tubes,
- menisci;
- intervertebral discs
- is a connective tissue that has no nerves or blood vessels in it. (Cartilage damage is difficult to heal).
- is composed of: chondrocytes embedded in a matrix of type II collagen and chondroitin sulfate;
- is divided into three types: hyaline cartilage, elastic cartilage and fibrocartilage.


A nonspecific term for any disease of cartilage (any disease of cartilage).

McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Diseases or conditions that affect the cartilage.

Some common diseases affecting/involving the cartilage are:


The cartilage covering bones (articular cartilage) is thinned, eventually completely worn out, resulting in a "bone against bone" joint, reduced motion and pain. Osteoarthritis is very common, affects the joints exposed to high stress and is therefore considered the result of "wear and tear" rather than a true disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis
Spinal disc herniation
Complications of surgical procedures on a joint
Malignant tumors: Chondrosarcoma

Chondrosarcoma is the second most frequent primary malignant tumor of bone. Chondrosarcomas are a group of tumors with highly diverse features and behavior patterns, ranging from slow-growing non-metastasizing lesions to highly aggressive metastasizing sarcomas.

is a serious, progressive, relapsing episodic condition characterized by inflammation and degeneration of cartilage in the body that affects multiple joints The duration and severity of the episodes can vary.
It is also known as chronic atrophic polychondritis, Meyenburg-Altherr-Uehlinger syndrome, von Meyenburg's disease, generalized chondromalacia and systemic chondromalacia,

Tietze's syndrome: Inflammation and swelling of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breast bone. Inflammation of cartilage in the ribs is causing chest pain.

Slipped epiphysis (slipped capital femoral epiphysis)
Hip abnormality where the growing end (epiphysis) of the thigh bone slips from the ball of the hip joint. It may occur in one or both legs and causes hip stiffness, limping and pain. The condition mostly occurs in teenagers and it is more common in males. There is no known cause but obesity increases the risk. Often leads to osteoarthritis in later life.

- also called chondromalaciapatellae  is a term used to describe damage or softening of the articular cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella). The softening can be felt with a blunt probe during surgery.

The underside of the kneecap, and the top of the thigh bone (femur) are both covered with a smooth and slippery (articular) cartilage that allows these two bones to slide easily over one another when the knee flexes. If this cartilage is damaged, the surface becomes rough and gets irritated with movement. Damage can be minor or severe, and may result in varying degrees of pain.

This injury can be caused by:
- overuse of the joint;
- simple wear and tear and arthritis as we age;
- acute injury such as a fall,
- problems with knee alignment,
- even muscle weakness.

There is a lot of confusion in the literature about chondromalacia and chondropathy.

Osteochondritis Dissecans
Osteochondritis dissecans is a painful condition within a joint of the body in  in which fragments of cartilage or bone have become loose within a joint, leading to pain and inflammation. The loose piece may stay in place or slide around making the joint stiff and unstable. These fragments are sometimes referred to as "joint mice".

A rare condition with a complex etiology, and can be caused by:
- genetic, hormonal, environmental and nutritional factors. -
- an interruption of the blood supply to section of bone in a joint which can result in a piece of bone breaking off and causing pain.
- a lesion formed within the cartilage layer itself;
The knee is most often affected but it can occur in ankles and elbows.
Osteochondritis dissecans can be often treated surgically.

A disturbance that affects the development of the cartilage of the long bones and that especially involves the region of the epiphysial plates, resulting in arrested growth of the long bones. Also called chondrodystrophia.

Online resources:

Chondropathy - Chondrodystrophy

Cartilage disorders


Cartilage Disorders

Arthroscopic evaluation of chondropathy in osteoarthritis of the knee.

Classification of Chondral and Osteochondral Injuries of the Knee - Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics

Cartilage Restoration

Diseases of the Musculoskeletal System and Connective Tissue (710-739)


Atlas chirurgical de médecine du sport - De Mark Miller,Richard-F Howard,Kevin-D Plancher

January 3,  2010

This site is primarily intended for use by qualified medical or sport professionals.
If you are a consumer, you should evaluate the information together with your physician or other qualified healthcare professional.
The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a medical advice.
As medical and sport science is permanently changing, we (authors and publishers) use our best efforts to provide accurate information, but we can not warrant that the information in this article and web site is accurate, complete or up-to-date.
This article reflects the opinions and judgments of it's author and may be further updated.
If you have questions regarding this article, please contact the author.

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