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:
- Stiffening after first awakening in the morning or after periods of inactivity later in the day. Stiffness (called gelling) resolves with activity, usually in about 20 minutes.
- Pain that worsens during activity and gets better during rest. This is the most common symptom of osteoarthritis. As the disease advances, the pain may occur even when the joint is at rest.
- Pain is generally described as aching, stiffness, and loss of mobility. The symptoms are often worse when resuming activities after periods of inactivity.
- The pain may be intermittent, with bad spells followed by periods of relative relief.
- Pain seems to increase in humid weather.
- Some people have muscle spasm and contractions in the tendons.
- Some people feel a grating sensation when the joint is used. Osteoarthritis in the knee may cause a crackling noise (called crepitus) when the affected knee is moved.
Symptoms by Location
Hand. Osteoarthritis of the hand occurs most often in older women and may be inherited within families. The following joints are most frequently affected:
- Distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint. The first joint below the fingertips is the most common location of osteoarthritis of the hand. These joints can develop bony growths known as Heberden's nodes.
- Carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. The joint at the base of the thumb, where the thumb joint connects with the wrist, is the second most common location.
- Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint. The middle joints of the fingers can also develop osteoarthritis. These joints may develop small, solid lumps (nodules) known as Bouchard's nodes.
|Click the icon to see an image of osteoarthritis.|
Osteoarthritis of the hand may predict the later development of osteoarthritis in the hip or knee.
Review Date: 06/16/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.