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Hip osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis of the hip)

The wear and tear of osteoarthritis can often affect a person's hips, sometimes requiring a hip replacement operation or resurfacing procedure.

People with 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. This is increasingly thought to be to blame when osteoarthritis develops when a person is young or in midlife - there are often problems with the shape of the bones in the hip joint, which may be inherited. These abnormalities may be very small but enough to mean that the hip doesn’t work effectively as a ball-and-socket joint, leading to mechanical stresses in the joint.
  • There may be genetic (inherited) defects in the cartilage or possibly in the immune system, making it react abnormally to damage in the joint.
  • The person may be putting extra stress on his or her joints, either by being overweight or through activities that involve the hip such as running or other intensive weight-bearing sports.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hip?

If you have any of the following symptoms, seek medical advice:

  • Joint stiffness that occurs as you are getting out of bed
  • Joint stiffness after you sit for a long time
  • Any pain, swelling or tenderness in the hip joint
  • A sound or feeling ("crunching") of bone rubbing against bone

How is osteoarthritis of the hip diagnosed?

There is no single test for diagnosing osteoarthritis. Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination. This will include a check of how your hip is functioning. Your doctor may also arrange X-rays or other tests, including blood tests and examination of the fluid in the joints, usually to eliminate other types of arthritis. He or she may also recommend a special type of X-ray where dye is injected into the hip joint - known as an arthrogram - or an MRI or CT scan.

How is osteoarthritis of the hip treated?

The main goal of treating osteoarthritis of the hip is to improve the person's mobility (ability to get around) and lifestyle. Part of this goal involves improving the function of the hip and controlling pain. Treatment plans can involve the following:

  • Rest and joint care
  • Use of a walking stick to take weight off the affected hip
  • Non- medication pain relief techniques to control pain
  • Losing excess weight
  • Exercise
  • Medication including paracetamol, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or a prescription pain medication
  • Surgery
  • Complementary and alternative therapies
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