What is the Difference Between Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (or degenerative joint disease) is a noninflammatory condition, commonplace in adults, which is derived from loss of cartilage with subsequent remodeling and overgrowth of adjacent bone. By contrast, osteoporosis is a metabolic condition characterized by loss of trabecular bone leading to increased fragility and a propensity to fracture.
Osteoarthritis is a condition frequently found in people who are obese or who have experienced trauma to the joints (including surgical removal of cartilage); it is quite commonplace over the age of 65, more prevalent in women (although isolated hip osteoarthritis is more prevalent in men over the age of 75), and almost always presents with inexorably progressive pain.
Osteoporosis is relatively underappreciated in men, although it does occur with some frequency in men over the age of 75; steroids, smoking, caffeine, excess thyroid replacement and loss of post menopausal estrogen are frequent contributors to osteoporosis in women who are at risk for both hip and vertebral fracture. Of interest, osteoarthritis can give a false negative result in osteoporotic patients scanned on a quantitative bone densitometer; evaluation of multiple sites is therefore recommended when osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are suspected in the same patient.
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Jonathan D. Krant, M.D., directs the teaching service in Rheumatology at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachussetts. A busy clinician, he oversees the care of 6,000 patients and runs the clinical investigation unit at Berkshire Rheumatology Associates, where he is employed as a staff rheumatologist. He wrote about osteoarthritis for HealthCentral.