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What Is Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)?

Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition that arises when a bone below the cartilage of the joint loses blood supply and dies. The cartilage and bone may detach, limiting joint motion and causing pain.

Osteochondritis commonly affects the foot and ankle, as well as other major joints like the elbow and knee. Doctors diagnose the severity of this condition depending on the depth of the damage. For example, the bone and cartilage might stay in place, detach completely, or detach partially.

What Causes Osteochondritis Dissecans?

Health experts have not yet identified the exact causes of this condition. However, osteochondritis has been linked to repetitive or excess stress on the bone from high-intensity activities, which ultimately reduces blood flow to the affected joint. You may experience symptoms after months of high-impact activity or injury to your joint, such as an ankle sprain. There is also a possibility that OCD is hereditary, as some families may be more genetically predisposed to the condition.

What Are The Symptoms Of OCD?

Osteochondritis dissecans can result in foot and ankle discomfort and limited range of motion. The signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling and pain in the joint that intensifies with movement
  • Popping and locking of a joint
  • The skin around the joint becoming tender
  • Difficulty straightening the affected limb
  • Joint weakness

Visit or call your doctor if you experience persistent pain or weakness in any of your joints. If you cannot walk or move your foot or ankle, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Who Is Prone To Osteochondritis Dissecans?

This joint condition is common among children and teens aged 10 to 20 years old. Adults rarely get it, and those that do may have suffered since childhood.

Osteochondritis occurs primarily in children that participate in sports like soccer, gymnastics, and baseball. Also, people with knock knees or bow legs are highly likely to get this condition.

How Is The Condition Diagnosed?

Your doctor will first carry out a physical examination to assess the stability of your ankle and foot. Then, they may use an x-ray to view the damaged bone and cartilage.

A CT scan may also be performed to view the soft tissues, bone, and blood vessels. In addition, MRI and ultrasound images can reveal the location of loose cartilage and bone.

If your doctor suspects familial osteochondritis dissecans, he will perform a genetic test to look for abnormalities in your proteins, genes, and chromosomes.

How Is It Treated?

In children and teens, osteochondritis dissecans usually heals without medical intervention. However, they can manage the swelling and pain by avoiding intense activities such as jumping and running for 6 to 12 weeks. If symptoms haven’t subsided within that timeframe, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications.

In severe cases, patients may need to undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove the detached bone and cartilage. The surgery can also repair lesions caused by the condition.

Doctors may recommend physical therapy to help speed up healing after OCD. If you have difficulty walking, you can use crutches until the condition subsides.

How Can You Prevent OCD?

Since the cause of osteochondritis dissecans is not yet known, prevention can’t be guaranteed. However, you can take some measures to avoid joint injuries. For instance, wearing protective gear while playing sports or engaging in other physical activities, like riding a bike, can limit the risk of injuries that may lead to OCD.

In addition, it is important to warm up before engaging in physical activities and stretch afterward as you cool down. Doing so can prevent unnecessary damage or strain to your muscles, joints, and bones.

Young patients are highly likely to recover fully from OCD and can engage in physical activities after a short recovery period. Adults, on the other hand, may need surgery to achieve recovery. While some patients experience the condition only once, in many cases, it can recur. 

Relief For Osteochondritis Dissecans In Maryville

If you suspect you have symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans, it is important to consult with your doctor to receive a professional diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. At Foot Health Center in Maryville, our team has the skill and experience to address this and many other common foot health issues. Our team proudly provides effective surgical and non-surgical solutions to patients in Maryville, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Granite City, and all surrounding communities. Call us today to schedule your appointment!

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