The wear and tear of osteoarthritis can vary significantly in severity and resultant functional disability. Symptoms often start out as mild stiffness and aching that is often easily ignored. As the condition advances the symptoms are less easily avoided and start to influence our routine daily tasks. We often have trouble moving following periods of immobility and begin to experience difficulty standing and walking for normal durations.
Diagnosis can be difficult at first. That’s because pain can appear in different locations including the groin, thigh, buttocks or knee. The pain can be stabbing and sharp or it can be a dull ache, and the hip is often stiff.
There is no single test for diagnosing osteoarthritis. Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination. This will include a check of how your hip is functioning. Your doctor may also arrange X-rays or other tests, including blood tests and examination of the fluid in the joints, usually to eliminate other types of arthritis. He or she may also recommend a special type of X-ray where dye is injected into the hip joint (known as an arthrogram) or an MRI or CT scan.
The causes of osteoarthritis of the hip are not known. Factors that may contribute include joint injury, increasing age and being overweight. In addition, osteoarthritis can sometimes be caused by other factors: The joints may not have formed properly. This is increasingly thought to be to blame when osteoarthritis develops when a person is young or in midlife – there are often problems with the shape of the bones in the hip joint, which may be inherited. These abnormalities may be very small but enough to mean that the hip doesn’t work effectively as a ball-and-socket joint, leading to mechanical stresses in the joint. There may be genetic (inherited) defects in the cartilage or possibly in the immune system, making it react abnormally to damage in the joint. The person may be putting extra stress on his or her joints, either by being overweight or through activities that involve the hip such as running or other intensive weight-bearing sports. If you have any of the following symptoms, seek medical advice: joint stiffness that occurs as you are getting out of bed, joint stiffness after you sit for a long time, any pain, swelling or tenderness in the hip joint, a sound or feeling (“crunching”) of bone rubbing against bone.
The main goal of treating osteoarthritis of the hip is to improve the person’s mobility (ability to get around) and lifestyle.Part of this goal involves improving the function of the hip and controlling pain. Treatment plans of less severe cases often involves rest and anti-inflammatory medication. In more advanced cases use of a cane to take weight off the affected hip, physical therapy, weight loss programs, and even injections are common treatment options. In the most advanced cases total joint replacement or joint resurfacing procedures become necessary.