Degenerative Arthritis – A Bird’s Eye Look at the Disease

The definition of degenerative arthritis says that this is also known as osteoarthritis. This is normally caused by ever so gradual damage and loss of cartilage situated at the joints. With the cartilage gone, the affected joint becomes misshapen in the end and disappears totally. There are more than one hundred different types of arthritis known to us and among all these types, degenerative arthritis is the most common of all.

The model of knee joint shown the process of osteoarthritis of knee and total knee replacement surgery

What Happens When Degenerative Arthritis Sets In?

As explained a little earlier, degenerative arthritis causes total damage to the cartilage that cushions the movement between any two given joints. Once the cartilage is gone, the movement is effected with bone grating on bone which explains the extreme pain that this disease is well known for. With the cartilage gone, the constant rubbing by bone against bone causes localized inflammation, which culminates in the two bones fusing together with the help of a new bone formation (a protrusion normally known as a spur).

Knee Osteoarthritis and normal joint detailed anatomy

One of the earliest signs of degenerative arthritis is the change in shape of the smallest (top most) joint of the fingers. The cartilage there being the tiniest is among the first (easiest) prey to the devastating effects of the disease. The hand affected by osteoarthritis is quite deformed by the formation of such fusion on different fingers.

These are hands of a woman that is suffering from Osteoarthritis.

The other joints that this type of arthritis attacks are those of the feet (toes in particular), the spinal chord and the joints which bear large amounts of weight such as the knees, the hip joints and so on. The osteoarthritis is classified into two main categories, (i) when the causes of the disease is not well known; it is named primary osteoarthritis and (ii) when the causes of the disease are known, it is named secondary osteoarthritis.

Causes of the primary osteoarthritis – doctors are of the opinion that age is the main cause of this disease. Aging saps the cartilage of water content while depleting its protein content resulting into its gradual degeneration. The cartilage gets frayed with age and movement, when at last (over long years) you will find that there is no more cartilage to lose or damage any longer. The bone inflammation prompts new bone formation resulting into ugly “bumps” called spurs which totally deform the joint.

There have been a number of instances where primary osteoarthritis has been hereditary, spreading over two or three generations. The secondary osteoarthritis is mostly caused by being overweight, gout, hormone disorders, trauma to joints and diabetes to name a few of the biggest culprits.

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