Can Osteoarthritis Come on All of a Sudden?

Ask a Doctor

I’m 58 years old and active. I usually bike about 60 miles per week and I eat right. I’ve only ever had minor health problems, but just last week I got a terrible pain in my left knee joint. The doctor says its osteoarthritis, but I thought arthritis was a degenerative disease. I’m getting a second opinion because I don’t think osteoarthritis would start so painfully with no early arthritis symptoms leading up to it. Can osteoarthritis come on all of a sudden?

Doctor’s Response

Osteoarthritis is a chronic, progressive condition that worsens over time. While it may seem to come on “all of a sudden,” usually the cartilage between the joints has been eroded over time, so even if the joint pain seems sudden the process has been underway for a while.

The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is joint pain that worsens with activity and is relieved with rest. Morning joint stiffness is common. It may begin in one joint and progress to others. As the condition progresses, pain often becomes more frequent, lasts longer, and may not be relieved with rest. Joint swelling may occur.

In more severe cases, osteoarthritis can progress to the point where pain is significant and there is a limited ability to move the joint(s).

For more information, read our full medical article on osteoarthritis.

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Doherty, MA, MD, FRCP, FHEA, Michael and Abhishek Abhishek, MBBS, MD, MRCP, PhD. Patient education: Osteoarthritis symptoms and diagnosis (Beyond the Basics). 18 December 2017. 7 January 2019 .