Degenerative arthritis is also known as osteoarhritis. It is caused by inflammation, breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage in the joints.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis conditions. Degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, is the most common and it can affect the hands, feet, spine and large weight bearing joints such as the hips and the knees. Degenerative arthritis will usually appear around middle age. Most elderly people have degenerative arthritis but may not have symptoms. There will be radiological changes on the x-ray but many people have x-rays that are much worse than their functional ability.
Degenerative arthritis occurs more frequently in women than in men. One causative factor has not been found but other factors that increase the risk of degenerative arthritis are obesity, repeated trauma to a joint, bad posture and an injury or over use of a joint system. There also appears to be some hereditary component to degenerative arthritis.
Symptoms of degenerative arthritis include pain, especially after overuse or long periods of inactivity. Joints may creak or patients may experience grating sounds in the joint. There is often joint swelling, stiffness and limited movement. Patients also report muscle soreness and weakness around the joint from lack of use or joint deformity.
To diagnose degenerative arthritis your doctor will look at your history; do a thorough physical exam and order blood tests and x-rays. He may do an arthrocentesis in which he takes a sample of the fluid in the knee. Degenerative arthritis usually attacks the base of the thumb which is helpful in diagnosis.
Degenerative arthritis can usually be managed at home with rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDís) for pain relief. People can also use an arthritis pain relief program which includes the use of moist heat for joints are not swollen or ice for inflamed swollen joints. arthritis pain relief programs also include exercise, nutrition, appropriate sleep, rest and joint protection.
Regular gentle exercise is important to maintain strength and flexibility in muscles and joints. The muscles support the joints during weight bearing and the stronger and more flexible they become the less pain and discomfort the patient will feel.
Arthroscopic surgery is frequently performed at the knee and occasionally at the elbow or shoulder. It doesnít cure the arthritis but may decrease the level of pain. The goal of arthroscopic surgery is to remove damaged tissue, decrease swelling and inject corticosteroid medication to decrease inflammation. Patients have unpredictable results from corticosteroid injections. Some have improvement but these arenít the standard care for degenerative arthritis.
More recently physicians are using hyalgan acid or synvisc injections, which are lubricating and are more successful in the treatment of degenerative arthritis. They are not a cure but do help to decrease pain.
Joint replacement involves removing the arthritic portion of the joint and replacing them with a plastic and metal joint. These are available for hip, knee, shoulder and elbow joints. Joint replacement is recommended for older patients but not necessarily the best option for younger patients unless the joint damage is severe. At the hip and knee an uncomplicated replacement will last for 15 years 85% of the time. Hospital stay is between 4-6 days with full recovery from 6 weeks to 3 months.
You canít prevent degenerative arthritis but you can help to prevent the pain by having an arthritis pain relief program which incorporates exercise, rest, moderation, sleep and good nutrition.