Knee Arthritis

Arthritis of Knee Joint

What is Arthritis of the Knee Joint?

Arthritis is a general term covering numerous conditions where the joint surface or cartilage wears out. The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface that allows pain-free movement in the joint. This surface can wear out for a number of reasons; often the definite cause is not known. 

When the articular cartilage wears out, the bone ends rub on one another and cause pain. This condition is referred to as osteoarthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis as it occurs with aging and use. It is the most common type of arthritis.

Causes of Arthritis of Knee Joint

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. Other causes include:

  • Trauma (fracture)
  • Increased stress such as overuse and overweight
  • Infection of the bone
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • 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 Arthritis of the Knee

Knee arthritis causes pain and decreased mobility of the knee joint.

The cartilage lining is thinner than normal or completely absent. The degree of cartilage damage and inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. The joint space is narrowed and irregular in outline, this can be seen in an X-ray image. 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 or fatigue.

Diagnosis of Arthritis of the Knee

Knee arthritis can be diagnosed by a physical examination. Your doctor will ask you to move your knee in different directions to find out which motions are restricted or painful. X-rays and laboratory tests may be ordered to diagnose or rule out other conditions. In the normal knee, there is a normal joint space. In the arthritic knee:

  • There is an absent joint space that shows on X-ray 
  • The capsule of the arthritic knee is swollen
  • X-rays may show thinning or erosion in the bones or loss in joint space

Laboratory studies will show the presence of a rheumatoid factor or other antibodies.

Treatment of Arthritis of the Knee

The treatment options vary depending on the diagnosis.

Non-surgical Treatment Arthritis of the Knee

Any infection in the hip joint is treated by non-surgical treatments, which may provide relief with relatively few side effects.

  • Pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroid injections may help reduce the pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended to help you increase the range of motion and strengthening exercises to maintain muscle tone.
  • Lifestyle modifications can be done to control weight and avoid extra stress on the weight-bearing joints.

Surgical Treatment of Arthritis of the Knee

Surgery is considered the last treatment resort when the above non-surgical treatment options fail to reduce the symptoms. The type of surgery to be performed depends on your age, condition of the knee joint, and the type and progression of the inflammatory disease. The goal of the surgery is to relieve pain and improve the joint motion. The most common surgical procedures include:

  • Arthroscopic surgery: This is a minimally invasive surgery where a narrow lighted tube with an attached camera is used to treat the condition.
  • Knee replacement surgery: A hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the damaged cartilage and bone is removed from the hip joint and replaced with artificial components.