What Is Osteochondrosis?

Advanced forms of osteochondrosis may require joint replacement surgery.
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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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Osteochondrosis refers to any of a number of diseases that destroy bone tissue. The condition affects growing bone, or epiphysis, and is therefore generally found in the joints of children and teenagers. A lack of blood supply to the bone tissue destroys it, and though it is gradually replaced over a number of years, growth progress is delayed. It is sometimes also referred to as osteochondritis.

The underlying causes of osteochondrosis are unknown. Some possible culprits are genetics, rapid bone growth, or poor diet. In some cases, stress and overuse of the joint seems to play a role.

Any bone in the body can be affected, but some areas tend to be afflicted more often than others. Osteochondrosis occurring in those areas often has named diseases associated with it. The most common is Legg-Calve-Perthes syndrome, which affects the hip joint. Some others include Freiburg's disease and Kohler's disease, both of which affect bones in the feet, and Panner's disease, which affects the elbow.

Symptoms of osteochondrosis typically include pain, tenderness, and sometimes swelling at the site of the bone loss. Depending where the condition manifests, a patient's range of movement can be decreased. One rare form of the disease, osteochondritis dissecans, causes irregularities and fragmentation of the bone and cartilage which can lead to stiffness and locking of the joint. Scheuermann's disease, which occurs in the spine, may cause curvature of the spine and an inability to correct one's posture.

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A physical examination by a doctor is the first step in diagnosing the condition. Follow-up with x-rays typically comes next to confirm diagnosis and determine the extent of the damage. A bone scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be useful in some cases as well.

Treatments can vary, and often depend on which bones are involved. Limiting pressure on the site until the disease runs its course is usually recommended. Sometimes a brace or cast can be used to support the bone and limit bone deterioration. Physical therapy and surgery may be necessary to help strengthen the area and repair damage. In some cases, no treatment may be required.

The outcome for people with osteochondrosis can also vary significantly, depending on where it occurs in the body and when it is diagnosed. Some forms of the disease cause relatively little damage, and patients can expect to make a near complete recovery over time. Other forms can lead to complications such as deformity, arthritis, or joints that require replacement.

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Discuss this Article

anon334470
Post 3

Thank you for this post. I needed to write an essay on this topic and found it hard to find information about it that was simply written for the average person to understand. It's much appreciated.

Clairdelune
Post 2

Basically when someone gets this disease, blood is not supplied to bones. So without blood, the bone starts to decay and die. If this disease attacks the spine, a distortion or curve may appear on the back. They just don't know what causes this disease to get started.

It sometimes runs its course, but some kind of support, like a brace, can help to hold the bone together until it starts growing again. Sadly, a lot of the people who are affected with this disease are children and young adults.

PinkLady4
Post 1

It's too bad that children and teenagers are affected by this disease. Usually bones grow so well in children, it's hard to believe that something is causing them to decay. But the good news is that after a time, the bones get going again and grow back to normal density and strength.

I have often wondered whether kids should do sports like skiing and gymnastics because those activities put so much stress on the bones. And this may be related to osteochondrosis.

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