What is it?
Arthritis in the knee joint is characterized by pain and inflammation. There are several common forms of arthritis that affect the knee, including a degenerative condition (osteoarthritis) in which the cartilage in the joint breaks down causing the bones in the joint to rub against each other and an autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis) in which the body harms its own healthy cells and tissues. Knee arthritis may also develop after an injury, such as a ligament tear or fracture.
Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors
Osteoarthritis is usually associated with aging, while rheumatoid arthritis—the cause of which is unknown—may affect people of any age. Risk factors of knee arthritis include:
- Having a family history of the disease
- Being overweight
- Participating in an activity that puts stress on joints (such as playing sports)
- Injuring a joint
Symptoms of knee arthritis include:
- Pain that may be worse in the morning with inactivity
- Joint stiffness
- Swelling in the joint
- Limited joint motion
- A feeling of joint weakness
A doctor will diagnose knee arthritis by examining the joint and its range of motion, reviewing symptoms and medical history, conducting X-rays to look for a breakdown of cartilage in the knee and checking joint fluid for evidence of inflammatory arthritis.
Treatment for knee arthritis includes:
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Undergoing physical therapy
- Reducing activity
- Making lifestyle changes
- Using devices - such as a walker or reacher - to reduce the stress on the joint
If these treatments do not reduce the pain in the knee, the doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical treatments of knee arthritis include arthroscopic procedures to clean out debris and repair damaged cartilage, knee replacements and bone grafts.