What is Hip Osteoarthritis?

Allison Boelcke

Hip osteoarthritis is a condition in which the bones attached to the hip joints cannot move properly. The hip joints are covered with a protective barrier known as the articular cartilage, which helps cushion the area between the hip joints and thigh bones. Once the articular cartilage starts to degenerate, the hip joint will start to scrap against the thigh bones during movement and make walking painful or difficult.

Severe cases of hip osteoarthritis may require a hip replacement.
Severe cases of hip osteoarthritis may require a hip replacement.

The symptoms of hip osteoarthritis develop slowly and may fluctuate during periods of extended physical activity. Symptoms may start as tenderness near the buttocks, thighs, or groin. As the condition gets worse, the friction between the hip joint and thigh bones can result in the total loss of articular cartilage and cause abnormal extra bone growths known as bone spurs. People with severe hip osteoarthritis will typically also walk with a limp as the condition progresses.

There are no exact causes of hip osteoarthritis, but there are a variety of factors that may contribute to the likelihood of developing the condition. People with a family history of the condition are more likely to get it, as well as those who suffer from hip injuries early in life. As people age, their bones can become thinner and more susceptible to the deterioration of osteoarthritis. Obesity can put extra stress on the hip joints and cause the articular cartilage to wear away.

A doctor can diagnose hip osteoarthritis by moving a patient’s legs to check for pain or clicking sounds that may be a sign of the thigh bones rubbing the hip joints. A patient may also walk and stand on one leg to determine if he or she has a significant limp or lack of hip strength indicative of the condition. To ensure the patient’s symptoms are not due to a different condition, a doctor may also run X-rays to check for bone spur development.

Hip osteoarthritis does not have a cure, but its symptoms can be treated. Mild cases of the condition can be treated by limiting physical activity that puts pressure on the joints, as well as taking anti-inflammatory medications. As the condition progresses, a person may be in severe pain constantly, so a doctor may perform total hip replacement surgery to help relieve the friction between the hip joints and thigh bones. He or she make an incision and surgically attach a prosthetic near the hip joints that can help the joints and bones move more smoothly and prevent the painful friction.

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