Degenerative arthritis is a term used interchangeably with osteoarthritis which is the most common form of arthritis. Even though it is the most prevalent form among adults over 65 years old, any individual at any age can develop the condition. Remember that the risk of developing the condition goes along with age.
The occurrence of degenerative arthritis drastically increases after 50 years old in men and 40 years old in women. It is also not uncommon for degenerative arthritis to develop years after sustaining an injury.
The commonly affected joints include the hips, knees, fingers, big toes and the spine. The protective cartilage that covers the bones of the affected joint eventually degenerates. Once this occurs, the body starts to form new bone in a reparative attempt. The loss of cartilage and development of osteophytes contributes to the pain which is the main characteristic linked with degenerative arthritis.
What are the causes of degenerative arthritis?
Degenerative arthritis typically develops once the repair mechanism by the body could not keep up with the rate of degeneration. The trigger for the deterioration and ensuing repair action is not precisely understood. There are various factors involved which makes it complicated such as structural, biomechanical and metabolic changes that occur to the joint cartilage. Additionally, genetics is also likely to play a role.
Generally, degenerative arthritis is believed to affect the entire structure of the joint with erosion of the articular cartilage, hypertrophy of the bone at the borders of the affected joint, alterations to the synovial membrane, involvement of the ligaments and periarticular muscles as well as subchondral bone sclerosis.
Even though degenerative arthritis is often linked to the aging process, those who develop the condition at a young age or in unusual joints such as the ankle or shoulder with no history of injury might require assessment for avascular necrosis, unrecognized inflammatory arthritis or certain genetic conditions.
There are limited measures to prevent the progression of degenerative arthritis. The treatment is focused on managing the symptoms which includes rigidity, pain, diminished range of motion and crepitus.
Adequate rest, maintaining the right weight, range of motion exercises, using mobility aids and NSAIDs are the usual treatment measures that can manage the symptoms. In most cases, narcotic pain medications are not needed.
The intra-articular steroid injections can be utilized to reduce the flare-up of the symptoms. In severe cases of degenerative arthritis, if the conservative measures are not enough, surgery might be needed such as osteotomy, joint debridement, total joint arthroplasty and arthrodesis.