Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis.
Age and obesity are two major risk factors contributing to osteoarthritis. As the baby boomer generation is getting older — and many of them are overweight — osteoarthritis is predicted to increase by 66 to 100 percent by the year 2020. Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in elderly people.
Osteoarthritis symptoms usually occur in the joints of the neck and back, hips, knees, and fingers.
Osteoarthritis is a term doctors use to describe two joint problems that may or may not go together,” says Jonathan Edwards, MD, a professor of connective tissue medicine at University College London in England. “The most common is bony thickening around the rim of joints, which occurs after the damage has occurred, or just with time. The second problem is a wearing out of the cartilage surface otherwise known as the soft cushion between bones or the joint. This is the main reason for hip or knee replacement.”
Osteoarthritis symptoms and how to detect arthritis
Some osteoarthritis symptoms you should watch for include pain, stiffness, reduced movement, swelling, and a clicking or grating noises when moving the joint. Here’s how these symptoms might be recognized:
“Osteoarthritis pain tends to worsen as the day goes on, rather than loosen up,” notes Dr. Edwards. Osteoarthritis pain gets worse with activity and is sometimes relieved by rest. Examples include:
- Hip pain when going upstairs.
- Knee pain when walking.
- Finger pain after cooking or sewing or doing another handwork.
In later stages of osteoarthritis, the symptoms can be constant and very painful. “Worn hip and knee joints may become painful even to stand on,” says Edwards.
Stiffness and decreased motion
Osteoarthritis symptoms of stiffness and difficulty moving the joint usually are worse when waking up in the morning, especially if the joint was exercised the day before. The stiffness will usually clear up in about 30 minutes. Knee joints may lock up or suddenly buckle. “Sudden catching or giving way is quite common,” says Edwards.
Swelling and clicking
The bony spurs that occur in osteoarthritis can cause the joints to increase in size. This is most noticeable in the hands, where finger joints become enlarged and can make the fingers look bony and crooked. A clicking or grating noise may be heard when moving the joint. Doctors call this osteoarthritis symptom “crepitus.”
To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis and its treatment, visit the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
SOURCES: Jonathan Edwards, M.D., professor of connective tissue Medicine, University College London; Leonard Serebro, M.D., senior staff rheumatologist, Ochsner Clinic Foundation Hospital, New Orleans; Clifton O. Bingham III, M.D., rheumatologist and director, Seligman Center for Advanced Therapeutics, NYU-Hospital for Joint Disease, and assistant professor of medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York City; June 17, 2004, New England Journal of Medicine