What is rapidly destructive osteoarthritis?

Hip X-ray

We’ve all heard of arthritis. We’ve all probably heard of osteoarthritis. But what about rapidly destructive osteoarthritis?

Rapidly destructive osteoarthritis (RDO) is a rare type of arthritis and it’s just as bad as it sounds.

But back to basics. Osteoarthritis is a chronic, long-term condition that causes join pain, stiffness, and hampers general movement.

It occurs when your joints become inflamed and damaged, and over time the cartilage layer that protects the joint wears away and the damaged bone rubs together, causing that pain, stiffness and reduced movement.

It is the most common type of arthritis in Australia.

Rare form

If that’s not bad enough, a small number of people who suffer from osteoarthritis will develop RDO.

RDO is a rare form of osteoarthritis that, as the name suggests, causes rapid and significant damage to joints.

It’s most common in hips, but it can also affect other joints. According to a study published in BMC, one in seven people diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis will develop RDO.

It was first described in 1970, but since then there has not been a lot of progress on diagnosis or treatment.

It’s more common in women, although why is not clearly understood. It’s also not understood why osteoarthritis can develop into rapidly destructive osteoarthritis.

It has been linked to a reaction to some medications, an autoimmune response, related fractures or injury or septic arthritis where arthritis occurs due to an infection.

And, as the name suggests, it can lead to joint destruction in as little as six months to three years.

Not surprisingly, RDO looks a lot like normal osteoarthritis, but once it sets in, the condition progresses much more rapidly and can quickly become debilitating.


If you believe you are suffering from RDO, the best way to get diagnosed is to make an appointment with your GP and ask for some scans and X-rays as it may take more than one type or round of imaging to see the extent of the joint damage.

According to a report Medical News Today, because RDO is relatively rare there are no standardised diagnostic criteria.

“However, most papers on the disease suggest that the disease rapidly progresses over just a few months, or in less than one year,” the report states.

“For example, in the case of rapidly destructive spinal OA, the disease can destroy the disk between vertebrae in months, rather than years or decades.”

As the causes of RDO are not clear, the treatments are also a bit hit and miss. While some medications have been proven to help, those same medications have accelerated the condition for some patients. Surgery is often the only option, especially if RDO is in the hips.

Do you have arthritis? What do you do to cope? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Surprising things that could damage your liver

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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