Osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis, is also known as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis or simply degenerative arthritis. It leads to degradation of joints, articular cartilage and subchondral bone. The wearing down of cartilage affects the hands, knees, hips and spine. Though the progression of this disease is slow there is no cure hence it is better to know and identify its symptoms beforehand.
Osteoarthritis may be caused due to damage from mechanical stress which could not be repaired, hereditary and metabolic factors which are believed to initiate the loss of cartilage. Loss of cartilage exposes the bone surface which gets damaged. Excess body weight and impairment of peripheral nerves can also be causative factors of osteo arthritis. In extreme cases joint replacement surgery may be required. In the initial stages Osteoarthritis can be managed by a combination of exercises, analgesics and lifestyle changes. So first of all let us know the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
This is a primary symptom of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis pain develops gradually and increases when the joints are used or after a movement. Rest provides relief from the pain in the initial stages but as the disease progresses it becomes worse. This pain causes functional disability. It also occurs and may become intense when you mobilise after a period of inactivity. In some patients the pain increases with a drop in temperature.
In case of osteoarthritis morning stiffness is not very severe as compared to other forms of arthritis and vanishes within half an hour.
It is apparent when you first try to move immediately on waking and also after a period of inactivity. Co-ordinating movements and walking can get affected by stiffness of hips, knees and spine.
Manual Dexterity Problems
Osteoarthritis symptoms are generally localized at the affected joint. When the osteoarthritis is of fingers and hand there is an inability in the manual dexterity that is you cannot move your hands and fingers with ease and with skill. It is not always painful but movement is limited. The main cause is the Heberden’s node and Bouchard’s node. Heberden’s nodes are hard or bony swellings that develop in joints which are closest to the end of fingers and toes. Bouchard’s nodes are hard and bony outgrowths or gelatinous cysts on the middle joints of fingers or toes.
Crepitus is the crackling or grinding noise heard when the affected joint is moved or touched. This happens because the joint damaged due to osteoarthritis causes instability and wrong posture. This causes the joints to buckle or lock which is more evident in the knee joint and a crackling sound is produced.
Even patients with a few symptoms of osteoarthritis may have joint damage which can be visible in an X-ray. The severe cartilage loss in the joint may misshape the joints making them less stable.
Bone spurs also called osteophytes are hard lumps that form along the edges of the bone near the joints. They restrict movements of the joints. Heberden’s node and Bouchard’s node mentioned earlier are also types of bone spurs.
Tenderness and Effusion
Osteoarthritis causes tenderness in the joints accompanied by effusion that is swelling along with redness at times. These symptoms are sometimes noticed before the symptoms of pain.
Joint effusion of the knee is the most common symptom of osteoarthritis. There may be a formation of bunion at the toes which makes them red and swollen. A bunion is an abnormal, bony bump formed on the joint at the base of the big toe but it can be due to other causes too.