Arthritis is a condition where wear or inflammation leads to loss of the smooth layer of cartilage within the joints, leading to pain and stiffness as the bony surfaces of the joint rub against each other.
What is hip arthritis?
There are different types of arthritis that can affect the hip:
Osteoarthritis – is the most common form of hip arthritis, and is the result of wear and tear changes within the joint. Wear can happen over time in a previously normal hip or can be the result of previous injury or an abnormal shape of the hip which develops in childhood (hip dysplasia).
Inflammatory arthritis – these are conditions where the body’s immune system attacks the joint, leading to damage to the cartilage. Types of inflammatory arthritis include Rheumatoid Arthritis (which often involves pains in several joints including the hand), Ankylosing Spondylitis (which usually involves spinal stiffness as well as joint pains), psoriatic arthritis (where arthritis occurs with the skin condition, psoriasis) and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus).
Infectious arthritis – also known as septic arthritis – occurs because of an infection. This is rare and can occur as a result of an injury or fracture, or due to spread of infection from other parts of the body. The presence of infection can cause damage to the cartilage and secondary osteoarthritis.
What are the symptoms of hip arthritis?
The symptoms of hip arthritis can differ, depending on the type of arthritis that you have. Some common symptoms are:
- Stiffness – often leading to difficulty putting shoes and socks on
- Sensation or sound of “crunching” – your bones rubbing against each other
What causes hip arthritis?
The cause of hip arthritis varies, depending on what type of arthritis you have. Osteoarthriits is caused by wear over time; often people have an inherited tendency to hip arthritis or have subtle differences in the shape of their hip which predisposes to it. Inflammatory arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder and is much less common.
Your consultant will be able to discuss further what has caused your hip arthritis once they determine which type you have.
How is hip arthritis diagnosed?
If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms above, and think you might have hip arthritis, you should speak to your consultant.
Your consultant will ask you about your medical history and also perform a physical examination, which will allow them to see the range of movement you have in your hip.
Usually the diagnosis is confirmed using X-rays which determine the degree of damage within the joint. Less commonly, an MRI scan can identify more subtle changes; if inflammatory arthritis is suspected, you may need blood tests to confirm this.
How is hip arthritis treated?
There are both surgical and non-surgical options for treating hip arthritis that you may undergo depending on the severity and which type of arthritis you have.
Surgical options include:
- Hip replacement surgery – the head of the thighbone (femur) is removed and replaced with a metal or ceramic head; the hip socket (acetabulum) is re-lined with the new socket being made of ceramic or a very hard-wearing type of plastic.
- Hip resurfacing – the femoral head is not removed, but is instead trimmed and capped with a smooth metal covering, with the socket being re-lined with metal. Resurfacing has some potential advantages over replacement but is not suitable for everyone.
Non-surgical options include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Using a cane or stick
- Lifestyle changes (e.g. weight loss, adjusting physical activities)
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or have tried something which hasn’t worked for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.