5 Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, OA is a “wear-and-tear” form of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage that provides a cushion between your bones wears down.  

If you have joint symptoms, scheduling a visit with an orthopedic specialist is the best place to start. Orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Joel Hurt, MD, and his team have extensive experience diagnosing and treating a full range of injuries and orthopedic conditions, including OA.

OA may start gradually with mild symptoms that come and go. People with OA tend to have flare-ups where symptoms worsen, as well as periods where they may not notice symptoms. Knowing what to look out for can help you know when to see a doctor for an evaluation. Read on to learn five common signs of OA.

1. Morning stiffness

Feeling stiff first thing in the morning is an early warning sign of most types of arthritis, including OA. Morning stiffness in OA usually lasts a few minutes upon waking and gradually gets better as you get moving and go about your day. You may also experience stiffness after an extended period of inactivity, such as sitting for several hours. 

If your morning stiffness lasts longer than a few minutes, it is possible that you may have an inflammatory form of arthritis, such as RA. People with RA often have morning stiffness that lasts several hours after waking.

2. General joint stiffness

Aside from morning stiffness, OA can cause joint stiffness at any time of the day. It can affect any joint, but the knees, hips, lower back, and hands are most commonly affected. You may experience sudden or persistent joint stiffness. The stiffness of OA may worsen with certain activities and get better with rest. 

3. Joint pain

Along with joint stiffness, joint pain is a common symptom of OA and other types of arthritis. As with stiffness, joint pain may get worse with certain activities. Most people with OA report improvements with rest. It’s helpful to make note of any joint pain and when it occurs, as well as whether it occurs on both sides of the body. This insight, along with other relevant information, helps Dr. Hurt make the appropriate diagnosis.

4. Joint swelling

OA may cause fluid to accumulate around the joint, causing noticeable swelling. If you have arthritis of the knee, your knee may feel swollen and knobby, and may be difficult to bend. The type of swelling caused by OA is known as effusion. Roughly 90% of people with knee OA will have clinical signs of effusion visible on imaging tests. 

5. Tiredness or unusual fatigue

While fatigue is more commonly reported in people with RA, it can occur with OA also. Pay attention to any unexplained fatigue. You may notice changes in your energy before joint symptoms become noticeable. Fatigue associated with OA typically persists despite getting a full night’s rest.

Fatigue in OA is a common cause of reduced activity, according to one study. It’s easy to put fatigue off as stress or overdoing it in daily life, but if it’s unusual for you and accompanied by joint symptoms, it’s wise to get a checkup.

Getting treatment for arthritis

Arthritis is a painful joint disease that can limit your mobility and lower your quality of life. If you’re dealing with pain, stiffness, and joint swelling, you need treatment to manage your symptoms and restore joint function. Get started today by giving us a call to schedule a visit with Dr. Hurt. We have offices in Austin and Marble Falls, Texas.

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