Osteophytes which are protrusions of bone and cartilage are very common and develop in areas of a degenerating joint. They are associated with the most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis. Osteophytes typically develop as a reparative response by the remaining cartilage.
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Osteophytes may also develop from the tissue that lines the bone or joint and occur in any number of locations.
- Marginal osteophytes develop at the periphery or margins of all joints.
- Central osteophytes are most prominent in the hip and knee.
Osteophytes can be diagnosed by clinical exam as with the PIP (proximal interphalangeal joint), DIP (distal interphalangeal joint) and first CMC joints (carpometacarpal joint) of the hand or by radiographs (x-rays). If you did radiographs on everyone over 50 years of age, most would show some osteophytes. Yet, most people with osteophytes are asymptomatic.
Treatment of Osteophytes
If symptomatic, treatment of osteophytes includes:
- physical therapy
- NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- analgesics (painkillers)
- surgery (an option in severe cases)
Dr. Zashin is clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of TNF Blockers. The book is useful for anyone on one of the biologic drugs or considering the biologic drugs.