What Are Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Signs?
The following signs and symptoms may be seen:
- Pain: Aching pain, stiffness, or difficulty moving the joint may develop in one or more joints. The pain may get worse with overuse and may occur at night. With progression of this arthritis, the pain can occur at rest.
- Specific joints are affected.
- Fingers and hands: Bone enlargements in the fingertips (first joint) are common. These are called Heberden nodes. They are usually not painful. Sometimes they can develop suddenly and are painful, swollen, and red. This is known as nodal osteoarthritis and occurs in women older than 45 years of age. Another typical joint affected is at the base of the thumb (basal thumb joint or first carpometacarpal joint). This can lead to difficulty gripping and turning keys and opening jars.
- Hip: The hips are major weight-bearing joints. Involvement of the hips may be seen more in men. Farmers, construction workers, and firefighters have been found to have an increased incidence of hip osteoarthritis. Researchers think that a heavy physical workload contributes to OA of the hip and knee.
- Knees: The knees are also major weight-bearing joints. Repetitive squatting and kneeling may aggravate osteoarthritis.
- Spine: Osteoarthritis of the spine can cause bone spurs or osteophytes, which can pinch or crowd nerves and cause pain and potentially weakness in the arms or legs. Osteoarthritis affecting the low back can lead to chronic low back pain (lumbago). Osteoarthritis in the spine leads to degenerative disc disease (spondylosis).
When Should I Call the Doctor About Osteoarthritis?
When to call the doctor
- Pain with no benefit from common pain relievers
- Confusion regarding the diagnosis (Osteoarthritis can be confused with rheumatoid arthritis and gouty arthritis.)
- Disability or loss of mobility, especially if sudden
When to go to the hospital
- Trauma: Injuries from trauma such as falls, especially sports-related injuries, may require X-rays.
- Signs of infection: Fever, redness, or joint swelling may indicate joint inflammation or joint infection. A joint infection is a serious problem requiring prompt diagnosis and antibiotic therapy. Gout can also have similar symptoms.
- Sudden inability to walk, bear weight, or a significant change in function would be a reason to seek immediate medical help.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/7/2016
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