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What Is Degenerative Arthritis?

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Updated September 27, 2012

Question: What Is Degenerative Arthritis?
What is degenerative arthritis? Is degenerative arthritis the same as osteoarthritis? Patients are often confused by the diagnosis of "degenerative arthritis". What happens during this process? Can degenerative arthritis affect any joint? Are there any treatments which stop the degenerative process?
Answer:

Is Degenerative Arthritis the Same as Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Degenerative arthritis increases in frequency as people age. Degenerative arthritis may commonly develop years after an injury.

Can Degenerative Arthritis Affect Any Joint?

The joints typically affected by this type of arthritis include the:

Patients Are Often Confused By The Diagnosis of "Degenerative Arthritis". What Is Degenerative Arthritis?

In a joint affected by this type of arthritis, the protecting cartilage of the bone disintegrates and new bone, or spurs develop. (see illustration) The loss of cartilage and the development of these spurs contribute to the pain of osteoarthritis. (see illustration)

Patients who develop osteoarthritis at a young age or in unusual joints such as the shoulder or ankle, and have no history of injury should be screened for a conditon called hemochromatosis. This condition is characterized by too much iron in the blood. If diagnosed early, further joint damage, as well as damage to other organ systems can be prevented by lowering ones iron level through blood donation (the blood is discarded and not used for other people).

Are There Any Treatments Which Stop the Degenerative Process?

While there is not much available to prevent progression of osteoarthritis, there is some evidence that glucosamine with or without chondroitin, vitamin D and vitamin C may help progression. There is some preliminary although limited evidence that selenium may also have some benefit.

Maintaining ones ideal weight is very important to decrease the risk of osteoarthritis, especially in the weightbearing joints such as the hip or knee. Otherwise the treatment for degenerative arthritis is symptomatic and includes:

Answer provided by Scott J. Zashin, M.D., clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zashin is also an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology and a member of the American Medical Association. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle of TNF Blockers. The book is a must-have for anyone on one of the biologic drugs (Enbrel, Remicade, Humira) or considering the biologic drugs. Read my review of the book.

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