Degenerative joint disease (DJD), also called osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis is a degeneration of the articular cartilage (cartilage covering the bones) caused by inflammation, break down from wear and tear, and loss of the cartilage within the joints. Degenerative Joint Disease can affect the hands, feet, knees, spine and hips. The knees are usually the worst affected by degenerative joint disease. I have DDD and I had to have a bilateral total knee replacement. If I hadn’t had the surgeries done, I would be confined to a wheelchair.
What causes degenerative joint disease?
Degenerative joint disease occurs with the joints of the body which bear the most weight. The cause of DJD could be caused by excessive stress on the joints due to being overweight.
Other possible causes for degenerative joint disease are:
Old injuries to weight bearing joints, such as the knees and hips
Repeated mechanical wear and tear on weight bearing joints
Tears in the meniscus (cartilage within the joint)
The symptoms of degenerative joint disease are:
Degenerative joint disease can start in your early years and slowly progress as you age. Common symptoms of degenerative joint disease are pain in the knee, feet, hips that get worse after walking or running. You might feel stiffening of the weight bearing joints that gets worse after lying down for a few hours. With DJD, it is quite common to have visible swelling of the knee joint; the swelling can get worse if the knees are bent for long intervals.
Knee pain due to Degenerative Joint Disease is sometimes confused with meniscus tears and kneecap problems; therefore, to diagnose someone with DJD the physician needs to examine the patient and do some tests to confirm or rule out degenerative joint disease.
The following tests will help the doctor make a diagnosis:
Lab tests to rule out other arthritic inflammatory diseases
X-ray of the painful joints
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
An X-ray is useful to show the position and condition of the bones. An MRI is a more detailed test than an X-ray. An MRI shows the ligaments, articular cartilage, bones and menisci. If necessary, the surgeon can take a look inside of the joint with arthroscopy. The doctor can use arthroscopic examination to observe the surfaces of the joints for evidence of wear and tear damage.
Here are some other ways you can protect your joints:
Go for physical therapy
Wear a knee brace
Get regular exercise that is easy on the joints (water exercise is good)
Eat a diet rich in antioxidants
Avoid doing things that will cause joint pain (kneeling, jumping, squatting etc.)
See your doctor regularly for checkups
It’s important that you consult with your doctor about treatment options. Don’t try to be your own doctor. If you have degenerative joint disease, you can protect your joints by losing weight, if you are obese. Your doctor should be able to tell you how much you should weigh for your age and height.