The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and stiffness in your joints, which can make it difficult to move the affected joints and do certain activities.
The symptoms may come and go in episodes, which can be related to your activity levels and even the weather. In more severe cases, the symptoms can be continuous.
You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms of osteoarthritis so they can confirm the diagnosis and prescribe any necessary treatment.
Other symptoms you or your doctor may notice include:
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but the most common areas affected are the knees, hips and small joints in the hands. Often, you'll only experience symptoms in 1 joint, or a few joints at any 1 time.
If you have osteoarthritis in your knees, both your knees will usually be affected over time, unless it occurred as the result of an injury or another condition affecting only 1 knee.
Your knees may be most painful when you walk, particularly when walking up or down hills or stairs.
Sometimes, your knees may "give way" beneath you or make it difficult to straighten your legs. You may also hear a soft, grating sound when you move the affected joint.
Osteoarthritis in your hips often causes difficulty moving your hip joints. For example, you may find it difficult to put your shoes and socks on or to get in and out of a car.
You'll also usually have pain in the groin or outside the hip. This is often worse when you move the hip joints, although it can also affect you when you're resting or sleeping.
Osteoarthritis often affects three main areas of your hand:
Your fingers may become stiff, painful and swollen and you may develop bumps on your finger joints. Over time, the pain may decrease and eventually disappear altogether, although the bumps and swelling can remain.
Your fingers may bend sideways slightly at your affected joints or you may develop painful cysts (fluid-filled lumps) on the backs of your fingers.
In some cases, you may also develop a bump at the base of your thumb where it joins your wrist. This can be painful and you may find it difficult to perform some manual tasks, such as writing, opening jars or turning keys.
Page last reviewed: Fri Aug 2022 Next review due: Wed Feb 2020