Degenerative Joint Disease
Common reasons for this ailment include old age, obesity, injuries, and the weakening of bone density and muscle strength.
Degenerative Joint Disease, commonly known as Osteoarthritis is one of the most common joint-related ailments in the United States. Per the CDC, more than 32.5 million people suffer from some type of Osteoarthritis in the United States.1 With over 10% of men and 13% of women above the age of 60 suffering from symptomatic osteoarthritis, it has become a major health concern for the country.
While the chances of developing osteoarthritis increase with age, even young people in the age group of the 20s and 30s have been known to develop early onset of osteoarthritis due to a host of reasons.
In more common parlance, degenerative joint disease is also referred to as wear and tear arthritis, as one of the main reasons causing it is the repetitive use of the weight-bearing joints, which causes wear and tear. Degenerative joint disease pain is predominantly experienced in the hips, knees, and hands.
What causes Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease?
One of the main reasons causing degenerative joint disease is the repetitive use of weight-bearing joints, which then causes a breakdown or damage to the cartilage in the joints between the bones. Cartilage is a flexible yet tough substance that cushions the ends of the bones within a joint and prevents them from rubbing directly against each other. If the cartilage breaks down or completely wears away, there is initially friction in joint movement along with a deterioration in the connective tissues between the muscles, joints, and bones. Eventually, the bones move directly on each other causing severe friction, inflammation, and pain, along with other symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
While any joints are susceptible to this condition, the regions of the hips, hands, knees, and the back or the spine are the most common areas where the onset of osteoarthritis is experienced. Unfortunately, damaged cartilage, unlike several other parts of the body, cannot repair itself as it does not contain blood vessels.
Though very rare, some people also have a genetic defect, which affects the making of collagen, an important component of the cartilage. This can also cause the rapid deterioration of the cartilage, expediting the onset of degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis.
What are the factors that increase your risk of developing Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease?
Apart from the process of aging, there are a host of other factors that increase the risk of developing Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, such as:
- Post-joint trauma
- Joint abnormalities or disorders
- Abnormalities of the spine such as scoliosis or curvature of the spine
- Hormonal disorders
- Sickle cell disease
- Bone disorders
- Metabolic disorders such as hemochromatosis
What are the symptoms of degenerative joint disease?
The most common symptoms that indicate that you may be developing the degenerative joint disease include pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in the joints. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that progresses from stage 0 to stage 4, with 4 being the most severe. In the initial stages, rest can reduce the symptoms of the disease. However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms are manifested more rapidly and aggressively, requiring immediate medical attention.
While not all initial stages necessarily progress to the more severe stages, there are symptoms that will indicate that you need to get immediate diagnosis from a specialist. These symptoms include:
- Grating sensations while using the joints
- Formation of bone spurs around the affected joints
- Severe pain in the joints
- Loss of flexibility
- Limited range of movement
- Deformed joints
- Severe inflammation
How is degenerative joint disease diagnosed?
As a disease that initially develops very slowly, osteoarthritis can be hard to detect or diagnose unless the more severe symptoms manifest themselves. In case of a sudden injury or accident that requires an X-ray, osteoarthritis may be detected early in its progression. While the damage caused to the joints by osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, timely medical intervention can help arrest the progress of the disease and reduce the symptoms.
Osteoarthritis is usually diagnosed by Orthopedic physicians who follow a stepwise process to diagnose the degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis.
Physical Examination — The physician will evaluate the walking ability, the range of joint movement, inflammation, tenderness as well as the strength of the associated muscles.
Family History and Past Medical Records — Since osteoarthritis can be expedited by predisposing factors such as genetics, physicians also take that into consideration. Past medical history is also evaluated to check for any of the other risk factors.
Blood Tests — Help rule out other conditions or infections.
Imaging — Common tests that doctors run include X-rays, MRIs and joint aspiration. X-rays check the extent of bone damage. MRIs give a view of the cartilage and joints condition. Joint aspiration helps rule out other arthritis forms or conditions.
How is degenerative joint disease treated?
Getting a medical opinion at the right time can help arrest the progress of the disease even though it can not be completely reversed. The treatment of osteoarthritis is based on the symptoms and the locations where they are experienced. Doctors treat this condition with a combination of therapies including: rest, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, exercise, weight loss, hot/cold therapy, as well as over-the-counter medication such as oral and topical analgesics.
Additionally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, or even corticosteroids orally or as an injection may be recommended to produce the best results in terms of reduction of symptoms. Platelet-rich Plasma is also administered at times as an injection as a form of pain treatment.
The process of viscosupplementation has also become common of late as it reduces the pain in the joints. A gel-like substance that is similar to the natural lubricant in the joints is injected into the region to create the cushioning effect that Osteoarthritis removes from the joints.
Often, physical and occupational therapists may be involved by your physician to assist you in the process of rehabilitation via a combination of therapies and exercises. In case none of these treatments have proved their efficacy, your physician may recommend that you consult a spinal surgeon or orthopedic surgery for surgical processes known as arthroplasty and total joint arthroplasty.
What are treatments offered by Advanced Pain Care for degenerative joint disease?
Will I need surgery to treat my osteoarthritis?
In case none of these treatments have proved their efficacy, your physician may recommend that you consult a spinal surgeon or orthopedic surgery for a surgical process known as total joint arthroplasty.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure where a fiberoptic endoscope is inserted into the joint through a small incision. A second scope then washes away all the debris that is released from the cartilage as well as any crystals and bone fragments, and smooths rough surfaces and repairs tears. This is considered to be a quick surgery with less recovery time.
A total joint arthroplasty involves replacing diseased or damaged parts of the bones and joints with an artificial joint. This procedure can reduce pain and improve quality of life; however, a replacement may be required after 20 years.
There are other surgical procedures such as osteotomy and joint fusion; however, the need for surgery as well as the type of surgery is considered only after all other conservative forms of pain treatment have failed to reduce the pain.
How to prevent Degenerative Joint Disease?
Irrespective of the course of treatment that your physician or surgeon may recommend for you, a regular routine of self-care becomes imperative to keep a check on your osteoarthritis.
Maintain a healthy weight by sticking to a healthy and nutritious diet and exercise schedule.
Regular exercise to not only strengthen the muscles and joints but also have a schedule that includes stretching and flexing movements to increase the range of your movement in the affected areas.
Keep a check on your sugar and blood pressure levels.
Protect your joints when you are exercising or playing sports.
Get adequate sleep to keep hormonal and metabolic disorders at bay.
Choose a healthy and stress-free lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes degenerative joint disease?
The underlying cause of degenerative joint disease is repetitive motion that causes wear and tear of the cartilage around the joints. This causes severe pain, stiffness, tenderness, and inflammation, and develops into a chronic condition as the disease progresses.
What can be done for degenerative joint disease?
While degenerative joint disease cannot be cured or reversed, there are several pain treatment options that can be recommended by your physician/surgeon.
Conservative treatments include self-care such as weight loss and adopting a healthy lifestyle along with medications and injections such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, corticosteroids, platelet-rich plasma injections and viscosupplementation or surgical procedures such as arthroplasty, total joint arthroplasty, osteotomy, and joint fusion.
What is the difference between osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease?
Both osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease indicate the same form of arthritis which is associated with a breakdown or damage of the cartilage in the joints.
What is the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative joint disease?
Osteoarthritis is associated with a breakdown or damage of the cartilage in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks itself. This can also cause problems in the joints in the body with symptoms similar to that of Osteoarthritis.
Can degenerative joint disease spread?
Degenerative joint disease is a progressive disease that progresses from stage 0 to stage 4, with 4 being the most severe. In the initial stages, rest can reduce the symptoms of the disease; however, as the disease progresses, the symptoms are manifested more rapidly and aggressively, requiring immediate medical attention.
How serious is degenerative joint disease?
Chronic pain caused by the degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis when left untreated can worsen quickly and cause severe disruption in normal movement, making it difficult to perform daily tasks.