Osteoarthritis of the hip

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Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs most often in older people. This disease affects the tissue covering the ends of bones in a joint (cartilage). In a person with osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes damaged and worn out causing pain, swelling, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected joint. Although osteoarthritis may affect various joints including hips, knees, hands, and spine, hip joint is most commonly affected. Rarely, the disease may affect the shoulders, wrists and feet.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by damaged articular cartilage, the cartilage lining the hip joint. Advanced age is one of the most common reasons for osteoarthritis of the hip. You may also develop osteoarthritis if you had a hip injury or fracture in the past, if you have family history of osteoarthritis, or if you are suffering from hip diseases such as avascular necrosis and other congenital or developmental hip diseases.

How do you know if you have osteoarthritis of the hip? Certain characteristic symptoms and diagnostic tests help in identifying the condition. You will experience severe pain confined to the hip and thighs, morning stiffness and limited range of motion. Based on symptoms, your orthopedic surgeon will perform a physical examination, request X-rays and other scans, and possibly some blood tests to rule out the other conditions which may cause similar symptoms.

Management of Osteoarthritis

There are several treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help you ease your pain and symptoms.

  • Medications: Pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors may be prescribed. Topical medications such as ointments can be applied over the skin where there is pain. If the pain is very severe, corticosteroid injection can be given directly into the affected joint to ease the pain.
  • Other Treatments: Your physiotherapist will teach you exercises to keep joints flexible and improve muscle strength. Heat/cold therapy which involves applying heat or cold packs to the joints provides temporary pain relief. Lifestyle modifications can be done to control weight and avoid extra stress on the weight-bearing joints.
  • Surgery: Hip joint replacement surgery is considered as an option when the pain is so severe that it affects your ability to carry out normal activities.

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