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What Is Cartilage?

Cartilage is an avascular (not supplied by the blood vessels) connective tissue in the body. It is a generally flexible type of tissue that provides support, protection and structure to the other body tissues. It is often considered as a type of soft bone as it is not rigid or hard as bone. The ears and nose contain cartilage in their structures.

There are three main types of cartilage: Hyaline cartilage, elastic cartilage and fibro cartilage. Most of the body’s cartilage is hyaline cartilage which is a type of lining on the bones in the joints. It helps the bones to move smoothly without grating against each other. The elastic cartilage the most flexible because it contains elastin fibers. It balances the form and function of certain organs as it maintains the structure and allows for flexibility especially to keep tubular type of structures open. This true of the ear and the larynx. The fibro cartilage is quite rigid and strong in comparison to the other two types of cartilage. It is found in mostly high joint stress body areas, so it is the main connector for tendons and ligaments to the bones. Intervertebral discs contain fibro cartilage.

Arthritis is a common disease affecting the cartilage caused by the degradation of cartilage. This limits joint movement and causes pain. When hyaline cartilage is damaged, it is replaced by fibro cartilage. This is why joints lose part of their flexibility as fibro cartilage is more rigid than hyaline cartilage. The lack of blood supply in cartilage also makes it difficult to heal any injuries that may arise in it.

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