Arthritis / osteoarthritis

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What is arthritis of the hip?

Arthritis occurs when the cartilage encasing the bones, which aids fluent movement in the joint, is damaged, resulting in friction. Any joint in the body can be affected by arthritis, which causes pain, inflammation, stiffness and reduced mobility.

Most cases of hip pain in adults that require surgery are caused by osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis in the UK.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause hip pain, although this is less common than osteoarthritis. Around 400,000 people in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis.

What causes hip arthritis?

  • Osteoarthritis occurs most frequently in people over the age of 45 although it can develop at any age as a result of injury or other joint-related conditions. It causes damage to the smooth cartilage that lines the joints, causing it to become rougher and too thin. This places extra strain on tendons and joints, which can cause swelling. Loss of cartilage can result in bone rubbing against bone, leading to further deterioration of the joint. Bony spurs called osteophytes can develop, resulting in increased inflammation and pain.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakes the cells that line the joints for harmful agents and attacks them, resulting in pain and swelling. This can spread to other parts of the joint, causing the breakdown of cartilage and bone. The condition typically begins between the ages of 40 and 50 and women are three times more likely to develop it than men. It is also more common in smokers. Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that can lead to a wide range of symptoms. There is no cure, so treatment centres around managing the condition and helping to prevent flare-ups.

What are the symptoms of hip arthritis?

The symptoms include:

  • Stiffness in the hip that is worse after inactivity or on waking up
  • Pain that is exacerbated by movement
  • Loss of mobility and flexibility
  • Swelling, tenderness or warmth in the joint
  • A grating sensation in the joint which may be accompanied by cracking or popping
  • Bony spurs which might feel like hard lumps around the joint

If you have rheumatoid arthritis you may also have:

  • Intermittent high temperature
  • Tiredness
  • Widespread inflammation that may affect the heart, lungs, eyes and blood vessels

How is hip arthritis diagnosed?

Your consultant will carry out an examination of your hip joint. If you have the symptoms described above, you may have suspected osteoarthritis. A blood test or X-ray may be used to rule out rheumatoid arthritis.

How is hip arthritis treated?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms and whether you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be offered a range of different treatments, including:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight to reduce the strain on joints, taking regular exercise to strengthen the joints and build muscle.
  • Medication, including painkillers, anti-inflammatories and other preparations.
  • Injections of steroids or hyaluronic acid into the joint to provide short-term pain relief.
  • Physiotherapy to reduce your hip pain and inflammation.
  • Injections of platelet rich plasma (PRP), which may help to promote healing.
  • Activated Mesenchymal Pericyte Plasma injections (AMPP®) use the body’s natural capacity to repair damage using cells from adipose (fat) tissue and blood.
  • Hip arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive form of surgery that is used to treat hip impingement, which limits range of motion and is a known cause of osteoarthritis. It can also be used to treat labral tears (torn cartilage) and to remove loose fragments of cartilage inside the joint. Small incisions are made through which an instrument called an arthroscope is inserted, along with special surgical tools.
  • Hip replacement surgery for serious arthritic pain. Your affected joint will be removed and replaced with an artificial implant.