Knee Problems

Arthritis of the Knee

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Arthritis of the Knee

There are three basic types of arthritis that may affect the knee joint.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of knee arthritis. OA is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. It most often affects middle-aged and older people.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. RA can occur at any age. RA generally affects both knees.

Post-traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the knee. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, ligament injury, or meniscus tear.

Symptoms

Generally, the pain associated with arthritis develops gradually, although sudden onset is also possible.

The joint may become stiff and swollen, making it difficult to bend or straighten the knee.

Pain and swelling are worse in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Pain may also increase after activities such as walking, stair climbing, or kneeling.

The pain may often cause a feeling of weakness in the knee, resulting in a "locking" or "buckling."

Many people report that changes in the weather also affect the degree of pain from arthritis.

Surgical Treatment

If your arthritis does not respond to these nonsurgical treatments, you may need to have surgery.

There are a number of surgical options, including the following:

  • Arthroscopic surgery uses fiber optic technology to enable the surgeon to see inside the joint and clean it of debris or repair torn cartilage.
  • An osteotomy cuts the shinbone (tibia) or the thighbone (femur) to improve the alignment of the knee joint.
  • A total or partial knee arthroplasty replaces the severely damaged knee joint cartilage with metal and plastic.
  • Cartilage grafting is possible for some knees with limited or contained cartilage loss from trauma or arthritis.