What is Degenerative Arthritis?

Degenerative arthritis, often called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis

Degenerative arthritis, is often called degenerative joint disease. It is the most common form of arthritis, and is also called osteoarthritis (OA) – some people simply talk about “arthritis”. It can affect many joints at the same time, or it may occur in only one joint. The most typical areas in the body of osteoarthritis are:

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  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Spine
  • Hip 
  • Knee  

There are many, often interacting and complex causes that lead to degenerative arthritis. The result of these complicated processes in the body, is that the joint cartilage deteriorates

The surrounding bone, as well as the lining of the joint – called the synovium – also start to show unhealthy changes. The changes to the synovium include thickening and an increase in “reactivity” or sensitivity. As a result of this, the synovium produces more fluid than normal and this creates the inflammation (swelling and heat), which occur in the joint. 

Signs and symptoms in the joints include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Less mobility and flexibility 
  • Tenderness. 

The most common causes of degenerative arthritis are:

Sport or other previous injuries

A previous injury – for example a torn ligament, or a meniscus injury to the knee – may later progress to joint cartilage damage. The cartilage damage is due to less stability in the joint and this causes more shearing forces, resulting in more “wear and tear”. This can be the origin of degenerative arthritis, years or sometimes even decades later. 


Being overweight is one of the most common causes of degenerative arthritis.  When someone is overweight or obese, the joint cartilage of the load bearing joints – particularly the lower back, knee and hip – are negatively affected due to the chronic biomechanical stress.

Misalignments – knock knees and bow legs 

Similarly to the impact of being overweight or obese, poor alignment of the legs and hips cause chronic biomechanical stress on the joint cartilage. Over time this unfortunately causes cartilage deterioration which manifests as arthritis.


Degenerative arthritis is definitely age related. This is simply the “wear and tear” process on the joint cartilage as we get older. Since joint cartilage doesn’t have any ability to regenerate, the progressive impact of  “wear and tear” with aging leads to arthritis.


Researchers have suggested that certain forms of osteoarthritis have a strong genetic component, especially those that develop from your 50’s onwards. However these processes are not yet well understood.  

genetics may play a role in degenerative arthritis
The genetic factors of degenerative arthritis are not yet completely understood.

Although the exact genetic mechanisms of degenerative arthritis are still not known, it is widely accepted in the scientific community that the expression of several genes are impacted simultaneously. This seems to suggest that osteoarthritis is probably associated with multiple gene interactions.

Useful resources

If you would like to read more, you can find out how a doctor would make a diagnosis of degenerative arthritis. We also have some great articles to help motivate you if you need to lose weight or if you simply want to remain fit and active even if you have arthritis!


Dr Eszter Tánczos Olver

Medical doctor with qualifications from the Universities of Semmelweis in Budapest, Hungary and Albert Ludwig´s in Freiburg, Germany. Dr Tánczos Olver has over 20 years of experience in orthopedic medical innovation and technologies. Dr Tánczos Olver is an expert in the fields of regenerative medicine, medical technology and biotechnology. Dr. med
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