Arthritis of the knee is one of the most common causes of knee pain. Along with pain, one can notice swelling and stiffness in the knee joint. Different types of arthritis can affect your knee, and each type is treated differently depending on the symptoms and location in the knee joint affected.
What is Knee Arthritis?
The joint in the knee is a type of hinge joint. Its movement is similar to that of the opening and closing of a door. The knee joint consists of three main bones. The point where two bones meet is covered with a protective covering of cartilage. Small pieces of cartilage, known as meniscus, provide additional support to the knee joint.
These protective pieces of cartilage keep the bones in the knee from rubbing against each other and causing pain.
The potential for knee injuries due to its daily movements makes it prone to develop arthritis. Knee arthritis may cause inflammation in one or both knee joints.
What are the Types of Arthritis?
There are many types of arthritis. A few of them happen in the knee as well, which include:
- Osteoarthritis. It is the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee. It is caused when the protective cartilage surrounding the knee joint, known as articular cartilage, starts to break down. As this happens, the bones of the knee joint rub against each other, causing pain. The articular cartilage covers the shinbone (top of the tibia), patella (kneecap), and thighbone (bottom of the femur).
During the early stages of osteoarthritis, you may feel the pain only during specific activities. As arthritis progresses, pain can be felt while doing routine activities as well.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease wherein the body starts attacking its healthy cells. It causes inflammation in the joint that can lead to swelling, stiffness, warmth, and extreme pain. If left untreated, RA can cause permanent damage to the knees.
This type of arthritis always affects the joints symmetrically. If one of the knees is affected, it is likely that the other will be affected too. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may appear in the hands and wrists as well.
- Gout. A type of inflammatory arthritis, in which there is a buildup of uric acid crystals, also known as monosodium urate crystals, in the knee joint. These crystals collect in the soft tissue of the knee joint and cause severe pain, swelling, and redness.
What are the Symptoms of Knee Arthritis?
Every individual may experience a different set of knee arthritis symptoms. The common signs and symptoms include:
- Knee tenderness
- Pain while moving the leg
- An obvious deformity in the knee joint
- Limited range of motion
- Crepitus, a popping or clicking sound in the knee joint during movement
- Weakness in the knee joint
- Unstable knee
When to See a Doctor?
Depending on the inflammation in the knee joint, you may experience warmth and redness in the knee. Typically, with time, the knee arthritis symptoms worsen. If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms of knee arthritis, immediately consult a doctor.
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What Causes Knee Arthritis?
Knee arthritis is a result of the loss of the protective cartilage around the knee joint. The causes of knee arthritis include:
- Age. People above the age of 40 or more have a higher chance of developing knee arthritis.
- Gender. Females are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Obesity. Extra body weight adds pressure on the knee joint and worsens the damage to the knee.
- Genetics. Having a family member with inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis may increase your risk of developing knee arthritis.
- Previous Knee Injury. Having a previous knee injury like ligament tear, knee fracture, or torn meniscus may also cause knee arthritis.
How is Knee Arthritis Diagnosed?
To diagnose knee arthritis, the doctor may conduct several tests and examinations such as a physical exam, lab testing, and imaging studies.
The doctor may begin the diagnosis by reviewing your medical history. He/she may do a physical examination of the knee to look for any obvious deformities, redness, or warmth upon touch. The doctor may even ask you to walk to check your leg movements.
For a better assessment of the knee, the doctor may conduct a few imaging tests, such as:
- X-ray. It can help detect degenerative joint diseases and bone fractures in the knee.
- CT scan. It will combine x-rays from different angles and develop cross-sectional images of the knee. CT scans can help diagnose minor fractures and bone problems.
- MRI. It will create a 3D image of your knee with the help of a powerful magnet and radio waves. MRIs can help diagnose injuries to soft tissues such as ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and muscles.
In case of inflammation or infection, the doctor can perform a procedure known as
arthrocentesis, where a small amount of the liquid surrounding your knee is collected for laboratory analysis.
To diagnose gout, the doctor may do a uric acid test as well.
Can Knee Arthritis be Treated?
After carefully diagnosing your knee, the doctor may recommend a treatment option that includes lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery.
- Lifestyle Changes
Knee arthritis in its early stages can be treated with different lifestyle changes and techniques, such as:
- Weight loss. Additional weight can cause pain in the knee joints. Reducing pressure from the joints may also help the knee arthritis from worsening.
- Regular exercise. Exercising regularly can help improve the strength of your leg muscles. It will provide better support to your knee joints as well.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy such as strengthening muscles can help decrease the pressure off the joints.
Your doctor may recommend the following medications to help relieve the symptoms of knee arthritis:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs. Some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen may be used to treat knee pain. If your doctor believes you might need a stronger NSAID, he/she may prescribe other NSAIDS.
- Knee injections. Corticosteroid and viscosupplements injections include gel-like substances that help provide lubrication and cushioning similar to that of the fluid surrounding the knee joints.
- Other pain relievers. Acetaminophen helps in relieving pain but does not relieve inflammation in the knee joints. For stronger pain relief, the doctor may prescribe opioid analgesic medications.
The doctor may prescribe surgery in severe cases of knee arthritis. The surgical options include:
- Partial knee replacement. The surgeon will replace the most damaged part of your knee with high-grade plastic or metal substitutes. This surgery is minimally invasive through small incisions to provide a better recovery rate.
- Total knee replacement. The surgeon will remove damaged bone and cartilage from the shin bone, thigh bone, and kneecap. It is replaced with an artificial joint made of polymers, high-grade plastic, and metal.
- Knee arthroscopy. The surgeon will make a small incision and repair the knee damage using long, narrow tools and a small camera. This surgical option is helpful in restructuring torn ligaments and removing loose bodies from the knee joint.
What are the Preventive Measures for Knee Arthritis?
It may not always be possible to prevent knee pain, but the following preventive measures can help forestall it:
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. The extra body weight can put additional strain on your joints and increase the risk of knee injuries.
- Be in Shape. Take time to condition your muscles for any sports that you play. It will help prepare your muscles for the demands of sports.
- Stay Flexible. Weak muscles are one of the leading causes of knee pain. You can try balance and stability training to train your muscles so that they work more efficiently.
Apollo Hospitals Knee Pain Clinics
Apollo Hospitals Knee Pain Clinics offer comprehensive treatment to any individual suffering from knee pain caused by sudden trauma, by overuse, or by an underlying condition, like knee osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis of the knee. Our team specialists and care givers will assist you through your knee pain relief journey by providing you appropriate treatment that include pain relief medication, physiotherapy and surgical treatments.
With a with a legacy of innovation and excellence, Apollo Hospitals is known for offering the latest treatment for knee problems including:
- Fast Track, Daycare Total Knee Replacement
- Attune Rotating Platform Knee Replacement, the first of its kind in South India
- Partial Knee Replacement
- Arthroscopy or Keyhole surgery for knee disorders
- Meniscal Repair
- Knee trauma and fracture surgery
- ACL reconstruction
- Patellar/quadriceps tendon repair
Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment