Knee Arthritis

What Is Arthritis of the Knee?

The word “arthritis” basically means “inflammation of the joint”. Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to injury or disease. With inflammation, the area involved develops stiffness, pain, and swelling and it can last for a long time or recur, leading to tissue damage.

A joint is where two bones join together. The knee is the largest joint of the body. The bones of a joint are covered with a spongy material called cartilage to allow a cushion for the bones so the joint can move without pain. With arthritis, the area in and around the joint becomes inflamed and the cartilage cushion may be damaged, making mobility difficult.

Is There More than One Type of Arthritis?

There are more than one-hundred types of arthritis but the most common type is osteoarthritis. Two other common types include rheumatoid arthritis and gouty arthritis.

Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage covering the bone ends gradually wears away, thus earning it the name “wear-and-tear arthritis.” When the cartilage is damaged, the bones begin to rub against each other leading to swelling and pain. Osteoarthritis can occur in any of the joints in the body, but it affects the knee most commonly.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Also called RA, Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-lasting disease that leads to deformities and destruction of the joints. It most commonly involves the knees, wrists, and hands. With rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself causing the joint lining to swell and ache. The inflammation associated with RA spreads to the surrounding tissues and will eventually damage bone and cartilage. This leads to an unstable joint, pain with movement, and profound stiffness.

Gouty Arthritis: Gout is a painful condition of the joints where the body cannot eliminate uric acid or produces too much uric acid. This natural substance builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint leading to severe pain and swelling. Gouty arthritis most often affects the big toe, but can involve other joints including the knee and the wrist joints.

What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

The various kinds of arthritis produce different symptoms and it really depends on the severity from person-to-person. The most common symptoms are swelling, pain, stiffness, tenderness, warmth of the joint, and redness.

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Most forms of arthritis are diagnosed with a complete medical history and various imaging techniques. Your orthopedic specialist will take X-rays or MRIs to evaluate the condition of your joints. Sometimes it is necessary for your doctor to do tests on your blood, urine, and joint fluid to determine the type of arthritis you have.

How is Knee Arthritis Treated?

Your orthopedic specialist cares about your health so the goal of treatment is to provide pain relief for you and to increase your mobility and strength in the knee joint. Treatment options include exercises, medications, heat compresses, cold therapy, or knee surgery.

What is Involved in Surgical Treatment?

If your arthritis does not respond to the nonsurgical therapies your orthopedic specialist tries, you may benefit from surgery. There are many surgical options available. The first is knee arthroscopy where the orthopedic surgeon uses fiber optic technology to view inside the joint, repair what is damaged, and perform necessary surgical techniques.

Another procedure is an osteotomy that cuts the shinbone or the thighbone to improve the alignment of the joint. Sometimes it is necessary for the doctor to do a total or partial knee arthroplasty to replace the severely damaged knee joint cartilage with plastic and metal prostheses. Finally, there is cartilage grafting that is done when the knee has limited cartilage or loss of cartilage.