Degenerative Disease: Definition, Types, & Examples

  • Post last modified:September 30, 2021
  • Reading time:7 mins read

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What is Degenerative Disease?

A degenerative disease is described as a disorder that worsens as the function and structure of the affected body part deteriorates, resulting in disability, death, and morbidity, which may occur early. Aging is an inevitable part of life.

The body tends to undergo and accumulate changes throughout time at the organism level, and these changes are typically degenerative. The body deteriorates from its previous peak performance, particularly in terms of speed, efficiency, and repair.

Inexplicably, there are times when certain individuals experience degenerative changes before their time. These degenerative alterations eventually rise to symptoms and illness. Degenerative disease is the term for such a condition.

Aging, genetics, and lifestyle choices all play a role in many of these disorders. Many of these illnesses are also incurable, with only symptom relief as a treatment option.

Degenerative Disease Risk Factors

Many degenerative illnesses include ageing as a common risk factor. It involves a variety of biological changes. When a cell loses its capacity to divide while remaining metabolically active, it is said to be ageing.

An old biological structure is one that ultimately fades out at the tissue and organ level. Their structure and function are no longer as effective as they once were. This is frequently ascribed to genetic alterations within the cell, notably telomere shortening.

Telomere degradation can cause progressive deterioration over time. As a result, when the cell reaches a certain point, it loses its capacity to operate. When many cells lose their ability to divide and function properly, the body suffers as a result. Symptoms emerge as disease progresses.

Aside from natural degenerative changes produced by the buildup of DNA damage as a result of ageing, the body may also be vulnerable when subjected to a variety of stressors, such as oxidative stress. Mutations in mitochondrial DNA are also a significant risk factor.

Degenerative Disease Examples

i. Neurodegenerative Diseases

Over time, neurons degrade or degenerate. The gradual loss of structure and function, as well as the death of neurons, is referred to as neurodegeneration. It’s possible that the disorder will develop to neurodegenerative disease. A large number of them are linked to age, genetics, and lifestyle choices. Some diseases may not have a cure, but they can be treated to alleviate symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and Batten disease are examples of neurodegenerative illnesses.

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Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological illness that progresses due to the destruction of neurons. Multiple regions of the brain may be impacted in a person with this condition. As a result, the brain’s cognitive functions, such as memory and language, may deteriorate with time.

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Parkinson’s disease is another degenerative neurological illness that affects the brainstem’s melanin-containing nerve cells. Shuffling gait, stooped posture, resting tremor, speech impairments, mobility difficulties, and eventually a slowdown of brain functions and dementia are all signs of this condition.

Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative illness that causes mental and bodily decline, eventually leading to death. This condition causes a person to lose their coordination at first, then their gait, coordinated movement, and mental capacities.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative illness in which neurons that regulate voluntary muscles die. Initially, the arms and legs get weakened. The person with ALS will eventually lose the ability to move their hands and feet, talk, and swallow.

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological illness marked by the progressive buildup of demyelinating plaques, mainly in the periventricular regions of the brain.

Batten disease is a neurodegenerative illness marked by excessive lipofuscin buildup in cells and tissues. A pathogenic mutation in a gene causes the buildup of lipofuscin (CLN3 gene, for example, in the disease’s juvenile form). The illness strikes children between the ages of five and eight. Seizures, ataxia, visual impairment, and clumsiness are some of the symptoms.

ii. Cancer

Cancer is defined by an invasive malignant proliferation of cells (due to uncontrolled cell division) (metastasis). In humans, there are over a hundred different kinds of cancer. Many of these are caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as cigarette use, poor nutrition, and a lack of physical activity.

Ionizing radiation and environmental contaminants are two more risk factors. Virus infections (e.g., Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, human papillomavirus, and Helicobacter pylori) might also raise the risk of cancer. Cancer is a degenerative illness because its development might interfere with the function of nearby cells.

A mass in the lungs, for example, might take up space and hinder lung cells from absorbing enough oxygen. The presence of malignant cells in the lungs may also compromise the immune system, increasing the risk of lung infection.

iii. Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is a disorder that causes the coronary artery to narrow over time, eventually occluding it. It’s what causes a heart attack in the first place. Hypertension, smoking, diabetes, a lack of physical activity, a poor diet, and excessive alcohol use are all risk factors.

iv. Macular Degeneration

The medical condition Macular degeneration is caused by macular damage. In the centre of the visual field, the afflicted person may feel blurred vision. The vision deteriorates over time and may lead to blindness. Genetic factors, a poor diet, a lack of physical activity, and smoking are all risk factors.

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v. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a non-inflammatory degenerative joint condition that affects primarily the elderly. Degeneration of the articular cartilage, hypertrophy of bone at the margins, and alterations in the synovial membrane are all symptoms. It’s accompanied with stiffness and discomfort, especially after a lengthy period of exercise.

vi. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone-related degenerative illness. Extremely porous bones are a defining feature of the disease. As a result, someone with osteoporosis has a higher risk of fracture. It is more frequent in older women. Because of the compression fractures in the backbones, it produces a bent back.

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