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What are the Different Types of Cartilage Damage?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are three basic types of cartilage including elastic cartilage, fibrocartilage, and hyaline cartilage. All three kinds of cartilage are subject to cartilage damage due to a variety of factors including weight, physical activity, and wear and tear. While all types of damage to cartilage may cause pain, articular cartilage damage is the most severe.

Articular cartilage can be placed within the "hyaline cartilage" category. This type of cartilage can be found between joints, and it protects joints from absorbing a great deal of stress. Most articular cartilage injuries occur within the knee area causing immobility, swelling, and pain. The cartilage within the knee area can become damaged due to a direct impact such as falling or coming in contact with a blunt object. People who participate in particularly aggressive sports often fall prey to articular cartilage damage.

Other types of cartilage damage can occur as a result of aging. Throughout a number of years, cartilage can simply become worn out resulting in pain, swelling, and some immobility. Also, people who are considered clinically obese may suffer from osteoarthritis, which is caused by the wearing down of cartilage due to too much pressure. Further, people who remain immobile for lengthy periods of time may also experience cartilage damage, since a person needs to move in order for cartilage to function properly.

Diagnosing a person who is suffering from damaged cartilage is often difficult. Frequently, this type of damage mimics symptoms caused by torn ligaments and other injuries. The best way to determine whether cartilage has been damaged is to visit with a medical professional. Medical doctors have the ability to subject patients to a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI), that will detect damaged cartilage. Arthroscopic surgery is often the recommended treatment for any articular cartilage injury within the knee area.

Symptoms of cartilage destruction include swelling, severe pain, stiffness, and decreased movement. In some cases, small particles of cartilage may break away from a joint area causing joints to collapse under pressure. Physiotherapy, lifestyle changes, painkillers, and supportive devices may all be prescribed to a person suffering from cartilage destruction. Some people may require additional treatments such as mosaicplasty, marrow stimulation, and autologous chondrocyte implantation.

A person experiencing any of the symptoms listed above should seek medical attention immediately. Cartilage damage will not disappear, though it will worsen if not properly attended to. Attempts at self-medication should be avoided, since these tactics will not heal cartilage permanently.

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Discussion Comments
By JackWhack — On Oct 11, 2012

Nose cartilage damage can be pretty serious. My friend got punched so hard in the nose that he had to have surgery to fix it.

Blood collected around the damaged cartilage, and the surgeon said that this might cause part of his nose to die and collapse. The surgery prevented that from happening.

You know a punch has to be pretty intense to break cartilage! That stuff is fairly flexible.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 11, 2012

Cartilage damage symptoms sound difficult to live with. I can imagine how painful it must be to have the padding between your bones worn down to nothing!

I've never experienced osteoarthritis, and I hope I never do. I intend to stay active and maintain a healthy weight, so maybe I'll never have to find out what it feels like.

By seag47 — On Oct 11, 2012

@Kristee – It depends on the degree of knee cartilage damage. Some injuries are worse than others.

I got injured in a car wreck, and at first, I thought I was going to have to go see an orthopedic surgeon about my knee injury. The doctor in the emergency room had made me an appointment a month in advance, but my knee was so much better after a few weeks that I canceled the appointment.

I just treated it by staying off of it and applying ice packs during the first week. I hobbled around and kept my weight off of the damaged knee, and it did heal by itself.

By Kristee — On Oct 10, 2012

How serious is a knee cartilage injury? Does it usually require surgery, or can you treat it at home?

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