Shoulder Arthritis

Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis


What is Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis?

Glenohumeral joint arthritis is a condition that occurs when the smooth cartilage joint surface lining wears away to leave bare bone rubbing on bare bone. The condition is more common in the over 50 year old age group and the incidence is related to a number of factors including genetic and environmental factors.

Sometimes the arthritis is secondary to a systemic inflammatory joint disease such as Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or gout. Arthritis of the shoulder can be precipitated by a previous injury to the shoulder known as post traumatic arthritis. Previous infection in the shoulder can also lead to damage of the joint surfaces and subsequent arthritis.


What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis?

The symptoms of shoulder arthritis often come on slowly and progressively. Symptoms may fluctuate and can often be worse in cold or damp weather.

Pain is felt over the upper arm, is worse with shoulder movement, often troublesome at night particularly when lying on the affected side. As the arthritis progresses patients often lose range of movement in the shoulder and can suffer with significant shoulder stiffness.


What tests might be needed for shoulder arthritis?

The diagnosis of shoulder arthritis is made on the history, examination findings and investigations. Most commonly 3 X-Rays of the shoulder are done to confirm the diagnosis. The characteristic findings are loss of joint space due to articular cartilage loss, extra bone around the edges of the joint (osteophytes), whitening or hardening of the joint surfaces (osteosclerosis) and sometimes cyst formation under the bone surfaces.

Further investigation of the shoulder with CT scanning, Ultrasound scanning and MRI scanning may be required, particularly if shoulder replacement surgery is considered.


What are the treatment options for shoulder arthritis?

A stepwise approach to the treatment of osteoarthritis is recommended. This involves activity modification, physiotherapy and regular exercise, pain killers and or anti-inflammatory tablets, and sometimes shoulder joint injections.

If symptoms persist and significantly interfere with work, sleep and activities of daily living such as washing and dressing then surgery may be considered.

Surgery for significant osteoarthritis of the shoulder is most commonly in the form of a shoulder replacement operation. There are a number of different types of shoulder replacement and these will be discussed with you in the clinic.