Types of Cartilage
Cartilage is connective tissue found throughout the body. It’s characterized by elasticity, flexibility and a semi-transparent, tough nature. It is made up primarily of a glyco-protein material called chondroitin and is protected by a membrane called the perichondrium. There are three types of cartilage: hyaline, elastic and fibrocartilage.
Hyaline cartilage is bluish-white and semi-transparent. This cartilage is strong yet flexible. It is filled with chondroitin sulfates, keratan sulfate, hyaluron and collagen fibers.
Elastic cartilage is similar in structure to hyaline cartilage. It also is quite strong but has additional elasticity due to an extensive network of yellow elastic fibers in addition to its collagen.
Fibrocartilage is very tough, made up of thickly interlaced collagen fibers. It’s often found near joints and has the unique ability to merge with tendons or other neighboring tissues.
Hyaline cartilage is found in the septum of the nose, larynx, trachea, at the tips of bones (at the joints) and in the connective area between your breastbone and ribs.
Elastic cartilage can be found in your epiglottis, part of your larynx, the external portion of your ear and your auditory tube.
Fibrocartilage can be found near the edges of your articular cavities (like your glenoid cavity in the joint of your shoulder) and in the front area of your pelvic girdle. It is the primary component of the discs between your vertebrae.
Hyaline cartilage reduces friction in the joints. It allows bones to be firmly connected while still enabling movement, allows longitudinal growth in the long bones and provides support in the bronchii and trachea (allowing your windpipe to remain open).
Elastic cartilage maintains shape, adds flexibility and provides support and strength to overall structure.
Fibrocartilage absorbs shocks to prevent damage to the bones, enhances the sturdiness of joints while still allowing movement and deepens joint sockets to reduce the chances of dislocation.
Osteoarthritis and Articular Cartilage
Osteoarthritis is the progressive deterioration of articular cartilage, a specialized form of hyaline cartilage. Articular cartilage is found at joints and enables the ends of bones to remain lubricated, inhibiting wear on the bones and allowing frictionless movement.
Many patients who have suffered a joint injury also have damaged cartilage. The damage can usually be repaired with arthroscopy, a surgery performed with instruments inserted through three small incisions around the joint. Recovery from this kind of procedure is generally faster and less painful than traditional surgery. In some cases, however, an open incision may be required — if there is additional joint damage, for example. If you suspect that you have cartilage damage, talk to your doctor about the treatment plan and options available to you.