What is Knee Arthritis?
The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface that allows pain-free movement in the joint. Arthritis is a general term covering numerous conditions where the joint surface or cartilage wears out. This surface can wear out for several reasons; often the definite cause is not known. Arthritis often affects the knee joint. When the articular cartilage wears out, the bone ends rub on one another and cause pain. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It occurs with aging and use. It is known as wear and tear arthritis.
Causes of Knee Arthritis
There are numerous conditions that can cause arthritis but often the exact cause is never known. In general, but not always, it affects people as they get older (osteoarthritis). Other causes include:
- Trauma (fracture)
- Increased stress such as overuse and overweight
- Infection of the bone
- Genetic predisposition
- Inactive lifestyle and obesity (overweight). Your weight is the single most important link between diet and arthritis, as being overweight puts an additional burden on your hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
- Inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis)
Symptoms of Knee Arthritis
Knee arthritis causes pain and decreased mobility of the knee joint. The cartilage lining is thinner than normal or completely absent. In the arthritic knee, there is an absent joint space that shows on X-ray. In the normal knee, there is space between the bones. The capsule of the arthritic knee is swollen. The degree of cartilage damage and inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. Bone spurs or excessive bone can also build up around the edges of the joint. The combinations of these factors make the arthritic knee stiff and limit activities due to pain.
Doctors diagnose knee arthritis with a medical history, a physical examination, and X-rays of the affected joint. During the physical examination, your doctor will examine the affected joint for swelling, pain, tenderness, and assess the joint’s range of motion. An X-ray of the knee may show a loss of the joint space and bone spur formation.
There is no blood test for knee arthritis.
There is no known cure for knee arthritis. However, there are several treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help you ease your pain and symptoms. The objective of the treatment is to reduce pain, improve joint movement, and prevent further damage to the joint. The treatment of knee arthritis involves:
Medications: Medications may include different classes such as acetaminophen, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroid injections, and artificial joint fluid injections (gel or lubricating injections).
Some of the lifestyle modifications include:
- Weight loss
- A moderate exercise program
- Use of heat or cold treatments
- Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Getting adequate rest
- Protecting your joints with the use of assistive devices such a cane or braces to support the painful joint
- Physical therapy: Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to keep joints flexible and improve muscle strength.
- Surgery: Surgery is usually considered if non-surgical treatment fails to provide relief. Joint replacement surgery is considered as an option when the pain is so severe that it affects your ability to carry out normal activities.