DDegenerative disease is a condition that is commonly misunderstood by everyone as a ‘disease’. Degeneration is an age-related condition, but in some cases, it is also precipitated by other factors. It takes place when more than one body organs (e.g. bones, discs between vertebrae of the spinal column, nerves) and systems break down or deteriorate, leading to pain and weakness.

This article looks into the causes, symptoms, types, and treatment for the degenerative disease to slow down the degenerative process. Then, we will be exploring two common types of degenerative diseases, the degenerative neurological disease and degenerative disc disease.

Answers to what is a degenerative neurological disease, what is degenerative disc disease, and the differences and commonalities between the degenerative neurological diseases and degenerative disc diseases will be discussed.

Before further due, let’s find out what we meant by ‘degenerative’.

Written by Shani, an Australia-base Registered Healthcare Practitioner with a Masters qualification from the University of Newcastle (Australia) and with decades of hands-on experience working for hospitals and in aged-care.

 

What is Degenerative Disease?

A degenerative disease is one that gradually compromises vital functions. Diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes all fit under degenerative diseases as with time the ‘disease’ likely to get worse if not managed well.

Degenerative diseases act evolutionarily; that is, they worsen the patient’s condition over time and are irreversible. There are treatments to control the evolution of the disease, but this type of pathology has no ultimate cure yet.

Just to explain better, let’s look at commonly known infections, let’s say lung infection or pneumonia. These infections are reversible, meaning with doctors’ guidance, you could easily reverse them and can remove the infection from your body within a few weeks. Therefore, infectious diseases are not considered degenerative diseases.

Tip: Do you know if a wart is a fungus or virus? Follow the link to read my popular article.

Tip: Fever is a common symptom of an infection, which can cause hallucinations
in some cases.

What Degenerative Means?

The word degenerative comes from degenerate, which in its etymology means losing the essential qualities. In medicine, the degenerative adjective corresponds to the characteristic of cells and tissues that are losing their function, becoming essentially basic and, therefore, no longer control the activity to which they should be key in the functioning of the body.

As a result, many patients lose their mobility, their memory, muscles stop working and hinder the activity of internal organs, reasons that can lead to death.

But adequately accompanied by a medical team and skilled healthcare professionals, patients with a degenerative disease can enjoy a comfortable life with treatments that slow the progression of the disease.

Out of the all degenerative diseases, the ones related to our bones and joints are very popular. Joint arthritis, intervertebral disc diseases all fit under the degenerative category. Out of them, degenerative disc disease is always talked in the community, as it is a leading cause of back pain.

With no further due, let’s look into degenerative disk disease which commonly leads to lower and upper back pain.

Tip: Here are all the reasons why you may be experiencing lower back pain or upper back pain.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease describes an intervertebral disc dysfunction. Despite the terminology, degenerative disc disease is neither a joint disease nor a progressive degenerative disorder though. In contrast, disk degeneration is a frequently occurring effect of daily stress and minor injuries that lead to the gradual dehydration of the fibrous ring or the hard outer shell of the disk, and to its weakening.

When the disks are dehydrated, they also weaken, and degenerative processes are initiated. In total, these processes under the influence of the load on the spine lead to compression of the roots of the spinal cord and are accompanied by severe pain and weakness.

The degenerative-dystrophic disease of the disk can provoke acute or chronic pain
in the back or neck, but, as a common scenario, pain localized at the site of the damaged disk is related to the pressure on the area surrounding the nerve roots.

Disc generation at the lower spine region is most common, and this is due to the Lumbar degenerative disc disease. When the discs of the upper spine or neck are effected that is Cervical degenerative disc disease.

Tip: Disc bulging, disc herniation, disc protrusion, disc prolapse all can result from due to degenerative disc disease.

Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc degeneration is associated with several clinical entities, such as lower back pain, spinal canal stenosis and herniated disc. The intervertebral disc is known to be the structure of the musculoskeletal system most vulnerable to degenerative changes, beginning at an early age.

Stages of Degenerative Disc Disease

The degenerative process of the spine can be organized into 3 distinct stages:

dysfunction,

instability and

stabilization.

This degenerative process can be a part of a healthy aging process, and most of the time, do not cause painful conditions. However, it may be the cause of clinical entities where the pain is due to lumbar degenerative spondylosis, herniated disc or vertebral stenosis.

Tip: You must make sure your lower back pain is not a kidney pain.

Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

Cervical spondylosis is a term used for osteoarthritis of the upper spine, and it involves accidental disc degeneration or joint facets.

When there are no symptoms (e.g. pain), it is commonly the spontaneous degeneration, whereas the alternative terms are degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease (DAD).

It is very important to know the symptoms. For example,

  • loss or pain in neck movement, joint incompetence can be due to cervical spondylosis, neck arthritis
  • spinal cord pressure and related pain can be due to cervical spondylitis myelopathy)
  • neurological complications of joint degeneration can be a symptom of cervical nerve root compression due to cervical spondylitis radiculopathy.

Tip: Sciatica is a common complication of sciatic nerve compression. Here are tips for sciatica prevention and proven remedies for the cure.

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

For most people, degenerative disc disease is part of the natural aging process. As we age, our intervertebral discs may lose flexibility, elasticity, and impact-absorbing characteristics of the discs.

For others, degenerative disc disease can originate from a back injury.

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease treatment includes occupational or physical therapies, either or both can be used as a treatment. Moreover, special exercises, medications, surgery or losing weight can be used.

It is important to understand all types of treatment that helps relieve chronic pain, though: traditional pain treatment options and remedial pain treatments.

Conservative Treatment

Every patient fighting with back or neck pain associated with degenerative disc disease do not need surgery to heal the pain. Many patients’ symptoms get cure through the use of non-surgical therapies such as medications (pain relief and inflammation control), remedies, exercises, chiropractic care, and physical therapy.

Tip: There is scientific evidence for that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may improve anemia and wound healing; however, no evidence suggesting it may work for degenerative diseases, although some doctors still recommend it.

Your doctor may direct you to a surgeon or advise you to consider surgery if all the conservative treatments failed and surgery is the only option left.

Surgical Treatments

1. Dynamic stabilization

An interspinous stabilization can be defined as the process to treat the symptoms of spinal stenosis. The condition caused by narrowing of the spinal canal is known as Spinal stenosis.

An implant known as the interspinous spacer is designed primarily to keep the space between your spinous process open, that helps you to stand upright, the nerves in your back to not get pinched with it or cause you pain.

The procedure involves, enlarging the space between the bones in your back, so the spacer reduces the pressure on the spinal nerves, resulting in alleviating the symptoms of spinal stenosis, which moreover includes

  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the lower back, legs, and buttocks
  • Cramping, and
  • leg pain

The spacer remains permanently in the place without the need of attaching screws or any hardware to the bone (vertebrae) or any kind of ligaments in your back. Although the bone and the removal of the tissues is typically associated with traditional back surgery, whereas the dynamic stabilization procedure mostly does not require that with a spacer.

The natural autonomy of the spine remains preserved in spacer treatment.

Tip: Here is the list of causes of leg pain, based on pain location (e.g. groin pain, thigh pain, knee pain, calf pain, foot pain) and time of pain (e.g. night leg pain).

2. Artificial Disc Prosthesis

The artificial disc is designed especially for the patients to maintain the movement and flexibility by simply replacing a diseased disc from a person’s spine by an artificial one.

3. Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal Fusion Surgery is a traditional surgical procedure that has been used as a treatment for degenerative diseases of the spine for a long time now.

The procedure involves using bone grafts and instruments such as screws and metal plates which fuses two or more adjacent vertebrae.

The purpose of Spinal fusion procedure is to stabilize the spine and relief pain.

Prognosis of Degenerative Disc Disease

People with degenerative disc disease generally heal and manage their pains and associated symptoms well. Over time, we see with certain changes taken in their lifestyle, they simply reduce flare-ups, can easily manage pain, and with some good care, some even eliminate the symptoms. As a result, at some point, inflammatory proteins in their discs would no longer cause them pain: however, the flexibility and stiffness of the discs often are reduced with age.

What is Degenerative Hip Disease?

Degenerative joint disease is a condition that can occur in any joint of the body, but commonly it affects are found in Hip, knees, spine, legs and hand.

Degenerative joint disease is caused when the cartilage that cushions the bones ruptures, and the bone surface is rubbed and exposed. This friction and irritation result in join inflammation, severe pain or even in the loss of joint movement.

Moreover, other results that can be seen are ligaments and muscles around the joint becoming stiffer and weaker, or the development of bone spurs around the affected joints.

Now we know a lot about degenerative disc disease, and it’s the time to explore degenerative neurological diseases.

First thing first, let’s work out what is a degenerative neurological disease.

What is Degenerative Nerve Disease?

Degenerative diseases that affect the nervous system are called degenerative neurological disease, degenerative nerve disease or neurodegenerative disease.

The most common degenerative neurological diseases are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Friedreich’s ataxia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Lewy body disease
  • Spinal muscular atrophy

Let’s get out head around the key of the list.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain and causes neurons and nerve cell to malfunction. Affected areas in the brain compromise memory, language ability and behavior.

In the US, it is estimated that over 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease. This disease mainly affects people from 60 years of age.

Alzheimer’s disease has no cure. The treatment consists of the use of medicines to stabilize the condition. It will also offer some relief and comfort to the patients.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

A progressive loss of memory. Patients commonly struggle to remember older facts and may forget everyday situations too.

  • A gradual loss of cognitive ability.
  • Reduction of social relationship capacity.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the destruction of neurons in the area known as the substantia nigra in the brain. This region is responsible for the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Among the various functions of dopamine, the control of body movements is one of the main effects of Parkinsonism.

Scientists believe that the destruction of neurons in the substantia nigra is related to aging in the case of Parkinson’s disease.

The treatment for Parkinson’s disease involves the use of medications to slow down the nerve degeneration.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

  • Muscle stiffness

Tip: Dizziness is different from lightheadedness. And, dizziness can be a symptom of high blood pressure too depending on the stage of hypertension.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis is a not-rare autoimmune disease in which the body’s defense cells attack neurons (nerve cells) and destroy their myelin sheath. This condition causes brain damage that leads to atrophy or loss of brain mass. Thus, the central nervous system functions are compromised.

Multiple sclerosis affects not only the brain but also optic nerves (nerves to the eyes) and spinal cord.

In the USA, it is believed that 1 million people are affected by multiple sclerosis. The disease mainly diagnosed in women between 20 and 40 years, where then the disease process life-long.

Symptoms of MS

Multiple sclerosis shows a variety of symptoms, depending on the area of the brain and nerves involved. In general, key symptoms may be related to the disease are below.

  • Lack of coordination in movements
  • Changes in sensitivity
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness and muscle weakness
  • Loss of sight and hearing

Multiple sclerosis has no cure. The treatment is the basis of medicines and physical therapies. In some cases, bone marrow transplantation may be performed.

Tip: Tiredness and weakness can be due to chronic fatigue syndrome too. If it’s the case, you may eligible for a disability claim.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare disease that can be acquired or hereditary.

ALS causes the wear and death of the motor neurons of the brain and spinal cord responsible for voluntary and involuntary movements. In advanced stages of the disease, even involuntary breathing movement is impaired too. Usually, there is no impairment of psychic ability.

ALS also has no cure. Treatment consists of medication and physical therapy.

Symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

The common symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis are below.

  • Progressive weakness
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight loss
  • Stuttering and changes in voice
  • Involuntary contractions of the muscles.

The degenerative diseases are not limited to degenerative neurological disorders and degenerative (bone) disc diseases. There are other types of common degenerative diseases too.

Other degenerative diseases

The other two common degenerative diseases are coronary artery disease and neoplastic disease. Let’s see what they really are.

Coronary Artery Disease

The coronary artery is a result of blocked the most important blood vessels that offer our heart with oxygen, blood, and nutrients (coronary articles). Coronary artery disease is caused by deposits (plague) containing cholesterol in the arteries, which then cause inflammation.

The problem starts when the plaque builds up and narrows the coronary arteries, which results in reduced blood flow to the heart.

The key symptoms of coronary artery disease are chest pain (angina), shortness of breath and more signs of the root cause (that is symptoms of decreased blood flow). A complete block of arteries may cause a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease usually develops over decades, so you may not notice the symptoms until you have a significant block or in the worst case, a heart attack. But all of this can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.

Tip: It’s essential to differentiate a heart attack from a panic attack. Here are the symptoms of a panic attack in men and women.

Neoplastic Disease

A neoplasm is associated with the abnormal growth of cells, also known as a tumor. The condition that causes tumor growth is called Neoplastic Disease.

The tumors can be of two types.

Benign Tumor

This type of tumors has noncancerous growth, which means they have slow growth and cannot spread to other tissues. Most benign tumors are curable.

Malignant Tumors

This type of tumor is cancerous. In some cases, they grow slowly and then spread to other organs and body systems rapidly. Malignant tumors hold a risk of spreading to various tissues and organs in a body.

Conclusion

Today, the addition to socializing and stimulating the mind through brain gymnastics and methods that keep the brain “fit,” one needs to remember the body too. Maintaining a physical activity routine is essential for aging to occur actively and healthy.

People who engage in physical, mental and socially promoting activities are less likely to develop diseases like degenerative disc disease and still achieve active aging, overcome all the challenges of being 60+ and retain just the advantage of being a wiser person!

Tip: Thumper massage, leg compression and a foot and calf massager would improve your leg pain symptoms.

Tip: Quell is an effective pain-relieving innovation too.

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