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Pain Pract. 2017 Apr;17(4):522-532. doi: 10.1111/papr.12551. Epub 2017 Feb 10.

Degenerative Joint Diseases and Neuroinflammation.

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Scientific Information and Documentation Center, Epitech Group, Padua, Italy.
Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.
Department of Internal Medicine and Rheumatology, Santa Maria Hospital, University of Perugia, Terni, Italy.
Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, School of Dentistry, LUdeS University, La Valletta, Malta.
Paolo Procacci Foundation and European League Against Pain, Rome, Italy.
Department MESVA, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.


Rheumatic and joint diseases, as exemplified by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, are among the most widespread painful and disabling pathologies across the globe. Given the continuing rise in life expectancy, their prevalence is destined to grow. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, is, in particular, on its way to becoming the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020, with the rising incidence of obesity in addition to age being important factors. It is estimated that 25% of osteoarthritic individuals are unable to perform daily activities. Accompanying osteoarthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic systemic disease that often causes pain and deformity. At least 50% of those affected are unable to remain gainfully employed within 10 years of disease onset. A growing body of evidence now points to inflammation, locally and more systemically, as a promoter of damage to joints and bones, as well as joint-related functional deficits. The pathogenesis underlying joint diseases remains unclear; however, it is currently believed that cross-talk between cartilage and subchondral bone-and loss of balance between these two structures in joint diseases-is a critical element. This view is amplified by the presence of mast cells, whose dysregulation is associated with alterations of junction structures (cartilage, bone, synovia, matrix, nerve endings, and blood vessels). In addition, persistent activation of mast cells facilitates the development of spinal neuroinflammation mediated through their interaction with microglia. Unfortunately, current treatment strategies for rheumatic and articular disease are symptomatic and do little to limit disease progression. Research now should be directed at therapeutic modalities that target osteoarticular structural elements and thereby delaying disease progression and joint replacement.


joint diseases; joint pain; mast cells; neuroinflammation; palmitoylethanolamide

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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