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Arthritis Today

Arthritis and Diseases that Affect the Hip

From cartilage breakdown to muscle inflammation, problems to blame for painful hips.

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Many forms of arthritis and related conditions that affect the joint, muscles and/or bones can cause hip problems like pain, stiffness and swelling.

Here are some possible disease-related hip problems.

Osteoarthritis (OA). The most common form of hip arthritis, osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. In hip osteoarthritis, the cartilage that lines the acetabulum and/or covers the surface of the femoral head breaks down causing the bones to rub against each other. This may result in pain, stiffness, the loss of movement and the formation of bony overgrowths called spurs. Pain from hip osteoarthritis is often felt in the groin area and front of the thigh. Stiffness may be worst after periods of inactivity.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints that occurs when body’s immune system – which normally protects us from infection – mistakenly attacks the synovium, the thin membrane that lines the joints. Symptoms of hip rheumatoid arthritis include pain, redness, swelling and warmth of the affected hip joints. Unchecked, inflammation can lead to hip joint damage loss of function and disability. In addition to the hips, rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the knees, hands, wrists, feet, elbows and ankles.

Juvenile arthritis. Juvenile arthritis is the term used to describe arthritis when it begins before age 16. There are several different types of juvenile arthritis. Many can cause hip joint pain and swelling.

Ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, causing inflammation in the spine that can lead to chronic pain and stiffening of the spine. Often other joints are affected. Aside from the spine, the hip is the joint most commonly affected by ankylosing spondylitis.

Lyme disease. Lyme disease is an infectious disease characterized by a skin rash, joint swelling and flu-like symptoms. The disease is caused by the bite of a tick infected with a bacterium called B. burgdorferi. Lyme disease can affect the hip.  

Lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease, meaning the body's immune system creates antibodies that attack and damage healthy tissues. Lupus can cause inflammation of the joints, including the hip, as well as the skin, heart, lungs, and kidney.

Gout. Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when excess uric acid, a bodily waste product circulating in the bloodstream, is deposited as needle-shaped monosodium urate crystals in tissues of the body, including the joints. For many people, the first symptom of gout is excruciating pain and swelling in the big toe – often following a trauma, such as an illness or injury. Subsequent attacks may occur off and on in other joints, primarily those of the foot and knee. Gout less commonly causes hip pain.

Psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis accompanied by the skin disease psoriasis. The skin disease often precedes the arthritis; in a small percentage the joint disease develops before the skin disease. The arthritis can affect both large and small joints, including the hip.

Infectious arthritis.  Also called septic arthritis, infectious arthritis refers to arthritis that is caused by an infection within the joint. Infectious arthritis is often cause by bacteria that spread through the bloodstream to the joint. Sometimes it is caused by viruses or fungi.

Polymyalgia rheumatica. An inflammatory disorder that causes widespread muscle pain and stiffness, polymyalgia rheumatica mainly affects the neck, shoulders, upper arms, thighs and hips. The disease often comes on suddenly and resolves on its own in a year or two.

Osteonecrosis. Also called avascular necrosis or aseptic necrosis, this condition occurs when diminished blood to an area of bone causes it to die and eventually collapse. Blood flow may be blocked due to a number of causes including a clot, blood vessel inflammation or use of corticosteroid drugs. The hip is one of the most commonly affected joints.

Paget's disease of the bone. Paget’s disease is a chronic disorder in which excessive breakdown and formation of bone causes the bones to become enlarged, misshapen and weakened. The disease usually does not affect the entire skeleton, but just one or a few bones. If the pelvis is affected the disease can cause hip pain.

Sciatica. This is inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The largest nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve runs from the lower part of the spinal cord, through the buttock and down the back of the leg to the foot. The most common causes of sciatica include compression of the nerve where it exits the spine by a herniated disc, or a rupture of one of the structures that cushions the vertebrae in the spine. Sciatica may be felt as a sharp or burning pain that radiates from the hip.

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