Although older age is the greatest risk factor for osteoarthritis (OA), OA is not an inevitable consequence of growing old. Radiographic changes of OA, particularly osteophytes, are common in the aged population, but symptoms of joint pain may be independent of radiographic severity in many older adults. Ageing changes in the musculoskeletal system increase the propensity to OA but the joints affected and the severity of disease are most closely related to other OA risk factors such as joint injury, obesity, genetics and anatomical factors that affect joint mechanics. The ageing changes in joint tissues that contribute to the development of OA include cell senescence that results in development of the senescent secretory phenotype and ageing changes in the matrix including formation of advanced glycation end-products that affect the mechanical properties of joint tissues. An improved mechanistic understanding of joint ageing will likely reveal new therapeutic targets to slow or halt disease progression. The ability to slow progression of OA in older adults will have enormous public health implications given the ageing of our population and the increase in other OA risk factors such as obesity.
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