Knee Arthritis Overview
Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation and deterioration in joints. It results from damage to the coating or gliding surface in the knee called the articular cartilage.
Knee arthritis can make ordinary activities like walking and climbing stairs difficult and painful. Damage from arthritis to the knee joint cartilage and underlying bone might also result in deformities, such as knock-knee or bow-legs, and unusual knee sounds, called crepitus, might become more obvious.
Types of Arthritis
There are two common forms of arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the knee that acts as a cushion for the bones thins and wears away. This, in turn, allows the bones to rub together causing pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in patients over 50 years old, who often have a family history of arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease in which there is thickening and inflammation of the synovial membrane, the tissue that produces a lubricant to help the knee move smoothly. Over time this chronic inflammation can cause cartilage damage, leading to pain and stiffness.
A number of factors interact to cause knee deterioration, including:
- Developmental abnormalities of knee formation
- Major or minor repetitive injures
- Certain occupations
- Serious knee injury
While being overweight does not necessarily cause arthritis, it can contribute to early and more rapid progression of knee problems.
Different types of arthritis have different symptoms which can range in severity from person to person. Osteoarthritis generally does not cause any symptoms outside the joint. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis might include fatigue, fever, a rash, and the signs of joint inflammation, which include:
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Age - The risk of developing arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, increases with age.
- Gender - In general, arthritis occurs more frequently in women than in men.
- Weight - Being overweight puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints, increasing wear and tear and the risk of arthritis.
- Work factors - Some jobs that require repetitive movements or heavy lifting can cause stress in the joints and/or cause an injury, which can lead to arthritis.
Knee Arthritis Prevention
We believe that taking care of your body is the best way to prevent knee arthritis. Exercise, a diet rich in calcium and maintaining an ideal body weight are all things you can do to slow or prevent the wear and tear on the joints that cause knee arthritis.
Reduce Your Risk of Knee Arthritis
- Avoid high-impact and repetitive activities that are hard on your knees, like jumping and landing on hard surfaces.
- Control your weight to avoid putting stress on your knee joints.
- Keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water to keep knee joints lubricated and flush harmful toxins from the body.
- Make regular exercise part of your routine. Include stretching to keep joints and muscles flexible and water exercises to reduce wear and tear on joints.
- Include plenty of calcium in your diet to slow bone loss and help decrease the risk of osteoporosis.
Knee Arthritis Diagnosis
Knee pain initially brings a patient with knee arthritis to a physician, and this pain is one of the major ways arthritis is diagnosed.
When making a diagnosis, your Wellstar physician will usually begin with a medical history and ask questions about your symptoms. Your medical history will cover knee pain, medication you may be taking, prior injury, infections, bleeding disorders and other bone or joint problems you may have.
Your Wellstar physician will then perform a physical examination to determine the causes of pain and how the pain is affecting your ability to function. Your physical exam includes assessing any stiffness or instability that affects your knee’s range of motion. Any deformity in your leg, such as being bowlegged or knock-kneed, will also be assessed, as well as stability and how you walk and sit.
Blood tests may be performed occasionally to assess the condition of the bone and soft tissues around the knee. You might undergo X-rays or other imaging procedures such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see how much joint damage has been done.
- Blood tests
Knee Arthritis Treatment
The Wellstar Center for Joint Replacement excels in the treatment of knee joints affected by arthritis. In fact, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) certified Wellstar’s Total Knee/Hip Program, recognizing it as a preeminent major joint reconstruction program in Georgia.
Conservative treatment is always attempted before a total knee replacement is considered. Initial treatment may include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Weight loss
- Activity modification
- Ambulatory assistive devices
- Corticosteroid injections
- Tibial osteotomy
Total Knee Replacement
Total knee replacement replaces the damaged part of your knee with an artificial joint, which, like a normal knee, has smooth weight-bearing surfaces. The femoral component covers your thigh bone, the tibial component covers the top of your shin bone and the patellar component covers the underside of your kneecap.
You may benefit from total knee replacement if you experience the following:
- Severe knee pain that limits your everyday activities, including walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs
- Moderate or severe knee pain while resting
- Chronic knee pain, inflammation and swelling that does not improve with rest or medications
- Knee deformity, such as a bowing in or out of your knee
- Knee stiffness, such as an inability to bend and straighten your knee
- Failure of substantial improvement using other treatments such as cortisone injections, physical therapy or other surgeries
The sooner knee arthritis is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. The course of treatment depends on the type of arthritis, its severity and your overall health. Successful treatment will increase joint mobility and strength, and help you learn to manage arthritis pain.
Ongoing Care for Knee Arthritis
Therapies are available to help you manage pain and symptoms, whether you have total or partial knee replacement or treat your knee arthritis with more conservative methods. The professionals at Wellstar Health Place have specialized classes like Arthritis Aquatics, designed to improve joint flexibility and muscular strength while reducing joint pain and stiffness.
Following Total Knee Replacement
More than 90% of individuals who undergo total knee replacement experience a dramatic reduction of knee pain and a significant improvement in the ability to perform common activities of daily living. But total knee replacement will not make you a super-athlete or allow you to do more than you could before you developed arthritis. After surgery, you will be advised to avoid some types of activity, including jogging and high-impact sports, for the rest of your life.
With normal use and activity, every knee replacement develops some wear in its plastic cushion. Excessive activity or weight may accelerate this normal wear and cause the knee replacement to loosen and become painful. With appropriate activity modification, knee replacements can last for many years.