Degenerative joint disease—also known as osteoarthritis—is the most common type of arthritis, especially among older people. It results from wear and tear on the joint. A combination of factors, including being overweight, the aging process, joint injury, and stresses on the joints from certain jobs and sports activities may cause this disease.
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects the cartilage, the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another and absorbs energy from the shock of physical movement. When a person has osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint.
Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, bone spurs (small growths called osteophytes) may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space. This causes more pain and damage.
People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and limited movement. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. With appropriate care and treatment, most people with this disease can lead active and productive lives. Treatments include taking pain relief medications, rest and exercise, patient education and support programs, learning good self-care, and having a positive health attitude.
MedStar National Rehabilitation Network offers comprehensive, interdisciplinary services for persons with osteoarthritis. These services may include:
- Medical evaluation and care
- Coordination with the referring physician