The joints in our body are lined with a soft smooth material called cartilage. Arthritis occurs when this cartilage is worn away. Sometimes this can occur as a result of a past injury or certain aspects of your natural anatomy, but often it is degenerative and occurs with time. When the cartilage is worn away, the bone underneath becomes exposed causing inflammation and pain. As the wear and tear continues, the bone of the hip joint can start to deform and spurs of bone called osteophytes are produced at the edges of the joint. The inflamed joint can also generate a lot of fluid and swelling. The combination of the bone deformity, formation of osteophytes and swelling leads to increasing joint stiffness.
Hip arthritis can often be diagnosed with a simple xray of the hip. The xray can show where the cartilage has been worn away, the presence of any bone spurs, and if the joint has started to become deformed. Occasionally however very early arthritis can be difficult to identify in which case an MRI scan can be helpful. In some cases the source of hip pain can be difficult to identify and you may be offered an injection to help diagnose the source of the pain.
Symptoms of hip osteoarthritis include discomfort in the groin, thigh, side of the hip or buttock. Sometimes pain is even felt in the knee and when this occurs it is called referred pain. The hip can become stiff and patients can start to experience difficulty putting on shoes and socks, cutting their toenails and getting in and out of cars. Sometimes patients can experience acute flairs of pain which can take days or weeks to settle again. Initially these symptoms may be manageable with pain killers, physiotherapy, weight loss, using a walking aid and modifying daily activities. However with time hip arthritis tends to progress and these symptoms can become more and more intrusive to patients quality of life, and start to limit the activities that they once enjoyed without any pain. When this occurs some patients decide to have the joint replaced with an operation called a total hip replacement.
Mr Craik provides private hip consultations at Ashtead Hospital in Surrey where he will expedite you diagnosis and discuss with you the range of treatment options available.