Patient Care


What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?

OA is the most common joint disorder. It typically affects the joints of the hands (especially those involved with a pinch-grip), weight-bearing joints (hips, knees and big toes) and the spine.

In normal joints, a rubbery material called cartilage covers the ends of each bone. It provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between the bones. In OA, the cartilage wears away leading to joint damage.

The cause of OA is unclear.

What are the signs & symptoms of OA?
  • Common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness which typically occur after activity or towards the end of the day. Weather changes may make the pain worse, especially damp weather.
  • Affected joints may swell after extended activity.
  • Clicking or cracking sounds when a joint bends.
  • Bony swelling may be seen.

If you suspect you may have OA, see a family physician or rheumatologist. Education, lifestyle modification, painkillers and occasionally intra-articular injections may be used to relieve discomfort. If OA has resulted in pain, deformity and loss of function, the orthopaedic surgeon may consider surgery.

How is OA diagnosed?

OA can usually be diagnosed based on patients’ symptoms and examination by a doctor. X-rays are the most useful test to confirm osteoarthritis, although they are not necessary for diagnosis. They may not show how much pain or disability osteoarthritis can cause.

Who is at risk of OA?

Common risk factors include increasing age, obesity, previous joint injury and overuse. Genetic factors, pre-existing joint disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and metabolic diseases may cause OA.

What are the treatment options for OA?

A combination of lifestyle modification and medications may be used to relieve symptoms:

  • Weight loss and exercises that do not involve weight-bearing joints (such as swimming) and provide joint range of motion, muscle strengthening and aerobic fitness.
  • Assistive devices such as walking aids, food orthotics and splinting with advice by occupational therapists.
  • Topical and oral medications (used in step-wise fashion) such as paracetamol, NSAIDs
  • Joint-injections

Surgical management such as joint replacement may be considered at advanced stages.

Find A Doctor

Click here to access our Find A Doctor directory for a list of doctors treating this condition across our NUHS institutions.

You can search by -
  • Condition name 'Osteoarthritis' AND
  • Institution
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  • National University Hospital
  • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
  • Alexandra Hospital
  • Jurong Community Hospital
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  • Jurong Medical Centre
  • National University Cancer Institute, Singapore
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  • Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
  • Faculty of Dentistry
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