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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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How Do You Know if You Have Osteoarthritis? continued...

When osteoarthritis involves the hands, small, bony knobs may appear on the end joints (those closest to the nails) of the fingers. They are called Heberden’s (HEBerr-denz) nodes. Similar knobs, called Bouchard’s (boo-SHARDZ) nodes, can appear on the middle joints of the fingers. Fingers can become enlarged and gnarled, and they may ache or be stiff and numb. The base of the thumb joint also is commonly affected by osteoarthritis.

Knees: The knees are among the joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis. Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include stiffness, swelling, and pain, which make it hard to walk, climb, and get in and out of chairs and bathtubs. Osteoarthritis in the knees can lead to disability.

Hips: The hips are also common sites of osteoarthritis. As with knee osteoarthritis, symptoms of hip osteoarthritis include pain and stiffness of the joint itself. But sometimes pain is felt in the groin, inner thigh, buttocks, or even the knees. Osteoarthritis of the hip may limit moving and bending, making daily activities such as dressing and putting on shoes a challenge.

Spine: Osteoarthritis of the spine may show up as stiffness and pain in the neck or lower back. In some cases, arthritis-related changes in the spine can cause pressure on the nerves where they exit the spinal column, resulting in weakness or numbness of the arms and legs.

The Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis

  • stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time

  • swelling in one or more joints

  • a crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone

About a third of people whose x rays show evidence of osteoarthritis reportpainor other symptoms. For those who experience steady or intermittent pain, it is typically aggravated by activity and relieved by rest.

If you feelhotor your skin turnsred, you probably do not have osteoarthritis. Check with your doctor about other causes, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Osteoarthritis?

No single test can diagnose osteoarthritis. Most doctors use a combination of the following methods to diagnose the disease and rule out other conditions:

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