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Spine and Back Health

How does degenerative disc disease progress?

10/25/2010

Question:

Hello...I hope someone can answer my questions:

1-Does degenerative disc disease (DDD), start in one disc and progress to all discs?

2-Or does DDD affect all discs at once (like in my spine)? And is multi-level DDD usually caused by some other illness?

Thank you so much.

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. Please see an earlier response post about DDD listed below. To elaborate on your specific question, we don't really understand why some people seem to develop DDD in only one, or two discs, while others can get into trouble in multiple discs at the same time. The underlying process of cartilage degeneration, dehydration, and gradual erosion of disc material might be influenced by genetics in some way, but is also highly related to physical stresses. The single greatest factor appears to be cigarette smoking, which is especially toxic to discs and more frequently leads to multi-level DDD. There is an awful lot of research being done looking into ways to try to prevent, slow down, or even reverse DDD but it is turning out to be an extremely complex challenge. My guess is by about 12-15 years from now we'll have some sort of effective non-surgical treatment for DDD, hopefully. I hope this information helps.

Related Resources:

Black Disc Disease

For more information:

Go to the Spine and Back Health health topic, where you can:

Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University