Arthritis - osteoarthritis
The pain of osteoarthritis typically begins gradually after age 40 and progresses slowly over many years. Younger people with the condition may have no symptoms at all. Osteoarthritis is commonly identified by the following symptoms:
Hand. Osteoarthritis of the hand occurs most often in older women and may be inherited within families. The following joints are most frequently affected:
Osteoarthritis of the hand may predict the later development of osteoarthritis in the hip or knee.
Knee. Osteoarthritis is particularly debilitating in the weight-bearing joints of the knees. The meniscus, the cartilage pad between the joint formed by the thighbone and the shinbone, plays an important role in protecting this joint. It acts as a shock absorber. The joint is usually stable until the disease reaches an advanced stage when the knee becomes enlarged and swollen. Although painful, the arthritic knee usually retains reasonable flexibility.
Hips. About 1 in 4 people develop hip arthritis over the course of their lifetime. Being obese increases the risk. Osteoarthritis frequently strikes the weight-bearing joints in one or both hips. Pain develops slowly, usually in the groin and on the outside of the hips, or sometimes in the buttocks. The pain also may radiate to the knee, confusing the diagnosis. Those with osteoarthritis of the hip often have a restricted range of motion (particularly when trying to rotate the hip) and walk with a limp, because they slightly turn the affected leg to avoid pain.
Spine. Osteoarthritis may affect the cartilage in the disks that form cushions between the bones of the spine, the moving joints of the spine itself, or both. Osteoarthritis in any of these locations can cause pain, muscle spasms, and diminished mobility. In some cases, the nerves may become pinched, which also produces pain. Advanced disease may result in numbness and muscle weakness. Osteoarthritis of the spine is most troublesome when it occurs in the lower back or in the neck, where it can cause difficulty in swallowing.
Shoulder. Osteoarthritis is less common in the shoulder area than in other joints, but it may develop in the shoulder joint (the glenohumeral joint). In such cases, it is most often associated with a previous injury, and patients gradually develop pain and stiffness in the back of the shoulder. Osteoarthritis also can develop in the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which is between the shoulder blade and the collarbone. However, it rarely causes symptoms in this location.
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