Degenerative joint disease is the most common type of arthritis, and the percentage of people who have it grows higher with age. Although it is more common in older people, younger people can develop it – usually as the result of a joint injury, a joint malformation, or a genetic defect in joint cartilage. It is more likely to occur in people who are overweight and in those with jobs that stress particular joints.
Degenerative joint disease (DJD) – also known as degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis – is the most common joint disease. Most people over 60 years of age have DJD to some degree. Before age 55, the condition occurs equally in men and women; after age 55, DJD is more common in women.
Cartilage, the tissue that cushions bones at the joints, can break down over time due to stress that originates from a variety of factors. Excess body weight, fractures or other joint injuries, and high-impact sports such as football can all cause joint stress that will break down cartilage. Without cartilage, bones rub together, and the result is DJD.
DJD commonly affects joints in the hands, feet, spine, hips and knees. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. With moderate use, joints may feel better, but excessive or prolonged use can make joint pain worse. As DJD advances, affected joints can become larger, and pain can become quite severe.
Diagnosis of DJD can be based on physical examination, which may reveal a variety of signs associated with the condition – including joint movements that cause a crackling sound, joint swelling, limited range of motion, and joint tenderness. X-rays can are often used to confirm a diagnosis of DJD. Typical abnormalities associated with DJD that will be seen on an X-ray include loss of joint space and bone spurs.
Early symptoms of DJD can be controlled with lifestyle modification (such as exercise and weight loss) as well as pain medications including acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen).
More-severe DJD may require surgery to replace or repair damaged joints. The most common surgical procedure is the total or partial replacement of a damaged joint such as a hip, knee, or shoulder. Other less-common surgical procedures include osteotomy (changing the alignment of a bone to relieve stress), arthodesis (surgical fusion of bones, usually in the spine), and arthroscopic surgery (to trim torn and damaged cartilage).
Prognosis of DJD can vary, with some patients unaffected by the condition and others who become severely disabled. For many people, joint replacement surgery offers the best long-term outcome for DJD.
As the population ages, the number of people with osteoarthritis will grow. It is estimated that by 2030, 20 percent of Americans – about 72 million people – will have passed their 65th birthday and will be at high risk for the disease. If you believe you have symptoms od DJD, we can help. Call the Florida Spine Institute for an appointment.
Osteoarthrisis (2013). Medline Plus. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000423.htm. Last accessed December 4, 2014.