Osteoarthritis Symptoms

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Doctor's View on Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Comment by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Common osteoarthritis symptoms

Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary greatly from patient to patient and they depend on the severity of cartilage loss and the joint(s) affected. Many people with osteoarthritis have no symptoms or minimal symptoms while some suffer extreme loss of function of the joints involved.

Because osteoarthritis often causes no symptoms it is frequently first diagnosed based on clinical examination or detected incidentally while taking X-rays for another condition. The doctor can see signs of early osteoarthritis in the fingers as it presents as nodularity of the joints at the ends of the fingers. The nodular enlargements of these joints are referred to as Heberden's nodes. When the middle joints of the fingers have cartilage loss from osteoarthritis, bony enlargements can occur there that also cause nodularity. This nodularity is referred to as Bouchard's nodes. Osteoarthritis also commonly affects the joint at the base of the thumbs to cause bony enlargement. Osteoarthritis in any area of the hand can lead to symptoms of inflammation including

  • stiffness,
  • redness,
  • warmth,
  • swelling, and
  • pain as well as loss of grip, dexterity, and flexibility.
  • This can cause great pain with handshaking and other activity.

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