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Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) can affect any joint in the body, with the most common affected areas including the knees, hips and hands. Symptoms are usually experienced in one or two joints, but it is not unusual for people to suffer from more at any one time.

The symptoms of OA can be sporadic meaning that they come and go at varying levels of severity. Some people find that the weather (in particular, damp weather or drops in atmospheric pressure) make symptoms worse, while others complain that it is related to how active you are. In some extreme cases, symptoms can be continuous.

Both instances can make it difficult to carry out simple daily tasks, such as using stairs or getting up from a seat, or stop you from sleeping.

Diagram depicting a healthy knee joint and one with osteoarthritis

The main symptoms of OA are:

Pain

Pain occurs when you move the affected joint or at the end of the day. Those with severe osteoarthritis may feel pain more often.

Stiffness

Stiffness occurs when you have rested or remained still for a prolonged period of time, but usually wears away as you move.

Grinding

A grating sensation, also known as crepitus, occurs when you move the affected joint.

Swelling

Swelling can come in two forms - hard and soft. Hard swelling is caused by osteophytes, which are bony lumps that grow on and around the joints of the spine, while soft swelling is caused by the synovial fluid in a joint thickening. Both forms can make muscles look thin or wasted.

Lack of Movement

Due to one or more of the above symptoms, you may have trouble moving your joints as freely as you once did. Sometimes your mobility might be affected due to muscles wasting or your joint not being as stable as it was before.

If symptoms are persistent, you should book an appointment with your GP so they can carry out an examination and determine the best course of treatment. Click here to read about how OA is diagnosed.

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