Osteochondroses, plural for osteochondrosis, are a family of disorders that directly affect the growth of bones in children and adolescents. The disruption of blood flow to the joints is often the cause of these disorders. Though certain diseases in this family can affect older adults, they are most likely to affect children and teenagers, whose bones are still growing.
There are a number of diseases that fall into the category of osteochondrosis. They affect different parts of the body. They are typically grouped into one of three categories based on where they occur: articular, physeal, and non-articular.
Articular diseases occur in joint areas. Examples include:
- Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which affects the hip
- Panner’s disease, which affects the elbow
- Frieberg’s disease or Frieberg’s infraction, which affects the second toe
- Köhler’s disease, which affects the foot.
The main physeal disease is Scheuermann's disease, or juvenile kyphosis. This condition affects the intervertebral joints of the spinal column. It has no known cause.
Non-articular diseases are the remaining osteochondroses. These can affect any area of a person’s skeleton. The most common is Osgood-Schlatter’s disease, which affects the knee. It is caused by irritation of the bone growth plate in the area of the tibial tuberosity, which is the top part of the shinbone, right under the knee. Sever’s disease, which affects the heel, is another type of non-articular osteochondroses.
Osteochondritis dissecans are another form of osteochondroses. They occur when small pieces of cartilage and bone become dislodged in the joint. This can take place in any part of the body and is most common in the knee.
There is no single known cause of osteochondrosis. Common factors include stress to the bone, reduced blood supply to the affected area, and trauma to the bone. Osteochondrosis can also occur as a result of sports injuries.
Osteochondrosis is almost exclusively found in children and teenagers, up to around age 20. It is more common in boys, particularly those who engage in sports.
Though some cases of osteochondrosis can heal without the affected person even knowing, the most common symptom is pain near the joint that’s affected. Pain can be triggered by either physical activity or pressure applied to the area.
Doctors can easily diagnose osteochondroses through X-ray scans.
There are a number of simple treatments for osteochondrosis. Doctors often suggest resting the area of the body where there is pain. Sometimes, a brace or cast can be used. In rare cases of osteochondritis dissecans, surgery may be necessary to remove excess bone fragments.
Prognosis can vary for the different types of osteochondroses. Often, they will heal on their own or with some minor assistance from braces or a cast. They often heal themselves within weeks of their occurrence.