Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary, depending on which joints are affected and how severely they are affected. However, the most common symptoms are pain and stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting. Affected joints may get swollen, especially after extended activity. These symptoms tend to build over time rather than show up suddenly. Some of the common symptoms include:
Sore or stiff joints – particularly the hips, knees, and lower back – after inactivity or overuse.
- Limited range of motion or stiffness that goes away after movement
- Clicking or cracking sound when a joint bends
- Mild swelling around a joint
- Pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day
Here are ways OA may affect different parts of the body:
- Hips. Pain is felt in the groin area or buttocks and sometimes on the inside of the knee or thigh.
- Knees. A “grating” or “scraping” sensation occurs when moving the knee.
- Fingers. Bony growths (spurs) at the edge of joints can cause fingers to become swollen, tender and red. There may be pain at the base of the thumb.
- Feet. Pain and tenderness is felt in the large joint at the base of the big toe. There may be swelling in ankles or toes.
OA pain, swelling or stiffness may make it difficult to perform ordinary tasks at work or at home. Simple acts like tucking in bed sheets, opening a box of food, grasping a computer mouse or driving a car can become nearly impossible. When the lower body joints are affected, activities such as walking, climbing stairs and lifting objects may become difficult. When finger and hand joints are affected, osteoarthritis can make it difficult to grasp and hold objects, such as a pencil, or to do delicate tasks, such as needlework.
Many people believe that the effects of osteoarthritis are inevitable, so they don’t do anything to manage it. OA symptoms can hinder work, social life and family life if steps are not taken to prevent joint damage, manage pain and increase flexibility.
How OA May Affect Overall Health
The pain, reduced mobility, side effects from medication and other factors associated with osteoarthritis can lead to negative health effects not directly related to the joint disease.
Diabetes and Heart Disease
Knee or hip pain may lead to a sedentary lifestyle that promotes weight gain and possible obesity. Being overweight or obese can lead to the development of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
People with osteoarthritis experience as much as 30 percent more falls and have a 20 percent greater risk of fracture than those without OA. People with OA have risk factors such as decreased function, muscle weakness and impaired balance that make them more likely to fall. Side effects from medications used for pain relief can also contribute to falls. Narcotic pain relievers can cause people to feel dizzy and unbalanced.