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Healthcare: Rheumatology Services

Osteoarthritis

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About Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis that many people get as they age. It happens when the cartilage that cushions your joints—like your knees and hips—gradually breaks down. Then the bones rub against each other. This causes damage and pain. There are many treatments that can help with the pain and make it easier to move.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

When you have arthritis, even simple, everyday movements can hurt. Walking a few steps, opening a door, and even combing your hair can be hard. Symptoms may be mild to severe and may include:

Pain

Your joints may ache, or the pain may feel burning or sharp. For some people, the pain may come and go. Constant pain may be a sign that your arthritis is getting worse.

Stiffness

Getting up in the morning can be hard. Your joints may feel stiff and creaky for a short time until you get moving. You may also get stiff from sitting.

Muscle weakness

The muscles around the joint may get weaker. This happens a lot with arthritis in the knee.

Deformed joints

Joints can start to look like they are the wrong shape, especially as arthritis gets worse.

Reduced range of motion and loss of use of the joint

As your arthritis gets worse, you may not be able to fully bend, flex, or extend your joints. Or you may not be able to use them at all.

Cracking and creaking

Your joints may make crunching, creaking sounds. (This creaking may also occur in a normal joint. In most cases, it doesn't hurt and doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with the joint.)

Sleep problems

The pain and stiffness of arthritis can make it harder to sleep. And sleep problems may make it harder to cope with pain.

Arthritis does not usually cause much swelling. But you may have a little swelling, especially in the knees. Arthritis of the spine can narrow the openings that make space for the spinal cord and for the nerves that branch off the spinal cord (spinal nerves). This is called spinal stenosis. It can lead to pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. This pressure can cause pain, weakness, or numbness. Some medical conditions can cause symptoms similar to osteoarthritis, such as joint injuries and other forms of arthritis.

Where symptoms occur

The symptoms of arthritis can occur in any joint. But symptoms usually occur in the hands, hips, knees, or feet and sometimes in the spine. Most often, arthritis only occurs in one set of joints, such as the knees. But it may affect more than one area of the body, such as both the knees and the hands.

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