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Hip Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis of the Hip)

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What Is Osteoarthritis?

Arthritis means "joint inflammation." It causes pain and swelling in the body's joints, such as the knees or hips. There are many types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common. Also known as degenerative joint disease or age-related arthritis, osteoarthritis is more likely to develop as people get older.

Osteoarthritis occurs when inflammation and injury to a joint cause a breaking down of cartilage tissue. In turn, that breakdown causes pain, swelling, and deformity. Cartilage is a firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of bones in normal joints. It is primarily made up of water and proteins. The primary function of cartilage is to reduce friction in the joints and serve as a "shock absorber." The shock-absorbing quality of normal cartilage comes from its ability to change shape when compressed. It can do this because of its high water content. Although cartilage may undergo some repair when damaged, the body does not grow new cartilage after it is injured.

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The changes in osteoarthritis usually occur slowly over many years. There are, though, occasional exceptions.

The two main types of osteoarthritis are:

  • Primary: More generalized osteoarthritis that affects the fingers, thumbs, spine, hips, and knees
  • Secondary: Osteoarthritis that occurs after injury or inflammation in a joint, or as a result of another condition that may affect the composition of the cartilage, such as hemochromatosis

How Does Osteoarthritis Affect the Hip Joint?

Patients who have osteoarthritis of the hip sometimes have problems walking. 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.

What Causes Osteoarthritis of the Hip Joint?

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.
  • There may be genetic (inherited) defects in the cartilage.
  • The person may be putting extra stress on his or her joints, either by being overweight or through activities that involve the hip.
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