The major clinical symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and discomfort in movement. Symptoms appear for each affected joint, but their severity may vary depending on the latter. Onset of symptoms is usually gradual.
We talk about clinical signs, which are described here, and radiological signs (described in the radiological examination section), but the presence of clinical signs does not necessarily mean there are radiological signs. Hence, you can be suffering and your X-rays show only very slight osteoarthritic lesions and vice versa.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis are:
- Discomfort in movement
The ankle joint is stiff, but the pain varies in intensity. It can cause major disability as it can hamper walking.
Osteoarthritis of the big toe usually causes pain of varying intensity as well which may be permanent and diffuse. Pain is accentuated by movement of the joint from walking.
Deformity and malalignment of the big toe toward the inside or the outside may appear.
It is the main symptom.
The characteristics of osteoarthritic pain are very specific:
- It is triggered and increased by movement.
- It ceases or decreases when the joint is at rest.
- It is less significant in the morning, then increases during the day and is at its maximum in the evening.
- It commonly makes falling asleep more difficult but may exceptionally lead to waking up during the night.
- It reappears every time the joint in question is subjected to exertion: raising your arm for the shoulder.
But why does it hurt?
Some cases of pain-free osteoarthritis suddenly become quite painful, often from trauma or microtrauma. It is the latter that causes a painful inflammatory reaction.
Indeed, in osteoarthritis, it is the inflammatory reaction that is painful rather than the degeneration of the cartilage. This pain is found in mobilising the joint in question during a clinical examination.
Limitation in certain movements depends most of all on the pain involved. Your joints are sensitive and lack flexibility. The ease and scope of your movements have decreased.
Indeed, the functional impairment corresponds to the limitation in mobility of the joint affected by osteoarthritis. It varies depending on the activity of the person.
Osteoarthritic joints are, in general, neither red nor hot. They may be swollen when liquid becomes established in them (synovial effusion).
Eventually, bone spurs or osteophytes can cause joint deformity, especially visible in the hands and knees.
Your general condition is always good.
There is neither fever nor weight loss. However, osteoarthritic lesions are irreversible and sometimes lead, in addition to deformity, to joint stiffness which may progress to partial infirmity.
The following signs: crackling, a feeling of the joint being stuck and pseudo-blocking are or no interest to the diagnosis. But they can be very difficult to live with.