What are Osteophytes?

What are Osteophytes?

They are protrusions that occur at the connecting point between bones and are caused by a gradual erosion of the joint. This damage is caused by the surface of the joint wearing away over time, leaving irregularities in their shape, causing pain, limited mobility, and an increase in the likelihood of developing arthritis.

Where are they Found?

They are often found in the spines of older patients, which can cause several complications due to the high amount of nerve connections. Some areas of skin in the limbs are connected to the brain entirely via a single nerve in the spine. If such a vital nerve is affected by osteophytes, then the body has no way of circumventing the damaged pathway by alternate routes. Furthermore, if these nerves are compressed or damaged by osteophytes, then several other conditions can arise, such as decreased sensation in the extremities, or pain in the limbs.

Osteophytes are also found in the fingers and toes of certain patients, in which case they are known as Heberden’s nodes. This is often seen in the elderly in the form of swollen knuckles and irregularly shaped fingers. This in turn causes a marked decrease in agility and sensation.

What are the Symptoms of Osteophytes?

They may occur as a symptom of a related bone disease, such as osteomyelitis – an infection caused by mycobacteria. Diabetics are also at risk of developing osteophytes, due to the increased risk of developing neuropathic osteoarthropathy, which renders the formation of irregularities in the surface of joints in the feet far more likely.

In some rare cases, osteophytes may occur throughout the entire body, which often results in the formation of extra layers of bone (exotosis) on top of existing bone structures. Depending on the location of this new bone, the patient of a bone diseases may experience a broad range of pain, from manageable to incapacitating.

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