What Is Arthritis In The Knee?
Arthritis in the knee or knee osteoarthritis is a condition of wear and tear of the knee joint cartilage over a long period of time. It affects 20-40% of people over the age of 60 who experience knee pain. However, ageing is not the only cause of this condition.
The degree of degeneration of the knee cartilage and the discomfort a person experiences from this condition depends on a person’s lifestyle. Reduced pain and the prevention of surgical knee replacement can be achieved with a healthy lifestyle.
Types And Causes Of Knee Arthrosis
- It is the wear and tear of cartilage within the knee joint beyond the point that the body itself can repair. It has no distinct cause, although it is mostly related to ageing, and some research suggests there may be a genetic link.
- However, lifestyle factors can play a significant part in the development of knee arthritis and can influence the degree of its severity. Risk factors include a lack of physical activity.
- It is the degeneration of the knee joint that comes about from a predisposing condition that causes damage to the joint cartilage.
- Factors include trauma to the knee from a sporting injury or accident, or from strong, repetitive loading of the knee, involved in certain occupations.
Arthritis in the knee can occur on the inner side of the knee joint to cause a bowed knee deformity, or genu varus. Osteoarthritis of the outer portion of the knee joint creates a knocked knee deformity, or genu valgus. Such wearing of one side of the knee can be due to a misalignment of the joint, among other factors.
Development Of Arthritis In Knee
A defect in the knee joint cartilage can be the beginning of arthritis in the knee development. The wearing of the cartilage occurs gradually, which places more pressure on the bones that form the knee joint.
The inflammation caused by this wear and tear triggers a response in the bone to grow additional spurs of bone (osteophytes) at the edges of the knee joint. As the damage to the cartilage increases, the knee joint becomes less mobile and the joint space becomes smaller.
Eventually, the cartilage layer can wear away completely, eliminating the joint space and not protecting the knee against impact, resulting in stiffness and pain.
Knee Arthritis Symptoms
Degeneration of the cartilage within the knee joint is a gradual process and pain or discomfort is rarely felt in the early stages. Due to the slow onset of symptoms experienced, it is common for osteoarthritis to go undetected for a long period of time.
An initial symptom of the condition presents as pain in the knee with movements after an extended period of rest. As the condition progresses, any loading or movement can cause pain within the knee.
Other common signs of arthritis in the knee are:
- pain in the knee when walking on uneven terrain or going up stairs,
- crunching sounds with movement of the knee,
- discomfort in the knee when carrying heavy objects and an increased sensitivity in the knee during wet or cold weather.
It is common for a sufferer to only seek medical attention once symptoms of the condition become apparent, which is why it is often only diagnosed in a more advanced state. As the condition progresses, symptoms of pain and stiffness increase.
Arthritis Knee Treatment
- A typical medical examination of the knee will involve viewing the person’s walking pattern, palpating the joint to inspect for swelling and sensitivity, and testing for joint range of motion.
- If the practitioner suspectsarthritis of the knee joint, an X-ray will be recommended. The extent of the degeneration of the joint and the space remaining between the articulating leg bones will be examined in the image.
- More specific images can be obtained with an MRI scan to examine for any tendon, ligament or meniscus damage.
- Conservative therapy, such as physiotherapy and the usage of medical knee supports, is recommended for knee osteoarthritis to reduce pain and discomfort, improve general mobility and slow the progression of the condition.
- Further recommendations to improve symptoms and slow the course of the condition include reducing excess body weight, avoiding activities that place a heavy load on the knees and avoid walking on uneven terrain. These strategies are more effective the earlier they are implemented.
- Knee replacement surgery is an option for advanced stages of osteoarthritis, once conservative therapeutic measures have been exhausted.