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Osteoarthritis Onset - Do Symptoms Always Develop Gradually?


Updated June 30, 2014

Question: Osteoarthritis Onset - Do Symptoms Always Develop Gradually?
The onset of osteoarthritis symptoms is typically described as being gradual. Symptoms usually develop or worsen gradually rather than suddenly. But is this always the case?

The Typical Osteoarthritis Patient

The typical osteoarthritis patient is middle-age and has symptoms that develop over time. Hips and knees are commonly involved. Symptoms can include:

Gradual or Sudden Osteoarthritis Onset

While osteoarthritis symptoms generally develop gradually, it is possible for symptoms to appear suddenly (acutely). For example, symptoms of erosive osteoarthritis and inflammatory osteoarthritis, can appear suddenly -- with pain, tenderness, and swelling present. In addition, osteoarthritis symptoms can develop more rapidly in a joint that was previously injured.

Osteoarthritis Onset Typically Begins With Joint Pain

Gradual osteoarthritis onset usually begins with one or a few joints. The earliest and primary symptom of osteoarthritis is joint pain -- often described as a deep ache rather than sharp pain. It's important to recognize early symptoms of osteoarthritis -- whether onset of those symptoms is sudden or gradual.


Primer of the Rheumatic Diseases. Edition 13. Published by the Arthritis Foundation

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