Degenerative joint disease is also known as osteoarthritis and is the most common form of arthritis, affecting approximately 27 million people in America. Arthritis is the term used to describe inflammation of the joints, while osteoarthritis specifically refers to the wearing down of the cartilage in joints.
Joints in the human body are protected by cartilage, a rubbery cushion that stretches and decreases friction in the joints as they move. Degenerative joint disease causes cartilage to loosen and deteriorate. As this occurs and progresses, tendons and ligaments stretch and bones can rub together in particularly bad cases. This may cause the joints to be swollen, painful and stiff.
The Two Types of Osteoarthritis
There are two types of this disease. The first is primary osteoarthritis, which can take place as part of aging—although it does not always do so for everyone. The other type is secondary osteoarthritis, which occurs as the result of having some other disease.
As we age, our joints suffer “wear and tear”, which is the cause of primary OA. It typically starts showing up in those between the ages of 55 and 60. Theoretically, all of us experience cartilage breakdown as we get older; however, some cases are more severe than others.
Secondary OA occurs as the result of a specific trigger that exacerbates cartilage breakdown. Here are some of the most common causes/triggers for secondary OA:
- Trauma/Injury: Bone fractures increase an individual’s chance of developing OA and can cause the disease to arrive earlier than normal.
- Obesity: According to the Arthritis Foundation, each pound of extra body weight places the equivalent of three pounds of pressure on the knees and six pounds on the hips. Excess weight speeds up the “wear and tear” of joint cartilage.
- Inactivity: This is a chain reaction. Inactivity can cause obesity, which in turn weakens the muscles. Weaker muscles mean poorly aligned joints and an increased risk for OA.
- Genetics: Researchers have determined that OA runs in families, so certain family genes could also place you at risk.
- Inflammation: Diseases that increase inflammation can also affect the cartilage in the body. An example of such a disease is rheumatoid arthritis.
The usual symptoms of the condition are a continuous, stinging pain in the muscles around the affected area and stiffness in the joints that can hinder the ability to move, since pain increases with pressure.
Though degenerative joint disease can affect any joint in the body, the most common affected areas are the weight-bearing joints in the hips, knees, and spine. As the cartilage wears away and the joints lose their flexibility, the stress put upon them by standing or walking is what causes the pain associated with osteoarthritis.
This is a very common disease, believed to be hereditary, causing around 25% of all doctor visits and affecting anyone from age 20 up. In fact, most people over the age of 60 have degenerative joint disease with varying degrees of pain. For some, it can strike so severely that it prohibits normal movement.
If you suffer from Osteoarthritis and your long-term disability insurance provider has wrongfully denied your claim, we want to fight for you. Contact Ortiz Law Firm at 850-308-7833, and schedule your free case review today.