The Arthritis Research Institute of America Post

How Do You Know if You Have Osteoarthritis?

This is the second in a series of general articles about osteoarthritis.

Usually, osteoarthritis comes on slowly. Early in the disease, your joints may ache after physical work or exercise. Later on, joint pain may become more persistent. You may also experience joint stiffness, particularly when you first wake up in the morning or have been in one position for a long time.

Although osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, most often it affects the hands, knees, hips and spine (either at the neck or lower back). Different characteristics of the disease can depend on the specific joints affected. For general warning signs of osteoarthritis, check
back later in the week for an article called The Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis. For information on the joints most often affected by osteoarthritis, please see the following descriptions.

Hands: Osteoarthritis of the hands seems to have some heredity characteristics; that is, it runs in families. If your mother or grandmother has or had osteoarthritis in their hands, you’re at greater-than-average risk of having it too. Women are more likely than men to have hand involvement and, for most, it develops after menopause.

When osteoarthritis involves the hands, small bony knobs may appear on the end joints (those closest to the nails) of the fingers. Ther are called Heberden’s nodes. Similar knobs, called Bouchard’s nodes, can appear on the middle joints of the fingers. Fingers can become enlarged and gnarled, and they may ache or be stiff and numb. The base of the thumb joint is also commonly affected by osteoarthritis.

Knees: the knees are among the joints commonly affected by osteoarthritis. Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include stiffness, swelling, and pain, which make it hard to walk, climb and get in and out of chairs and bathtubs. Osteoarthritis in the knees can lead to disability.

Hips: The hips are also common sites of osteoarthritis. As with knee osteoarthritis, symptoms of hip osteoarthritis include pain and stiffness of the joint itself. But sometimes pain is felt in the groin, inner thigh, buttocks or even the knees. Osteoarthritis of the hip may limit moving and bending, making daily activities such as dressing and putting on shoes a challenge.

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