Osteoarthritis of the knee is a debilitating condition caused by wear and tear to the joints as a result of cartilage loss. Sufferers can experience reduced mobility, and the condition can be caused by aging, being overweight or having a repetitive strain injury to the knee. Here's an overview of what you need to know about osteoarthritis of the knee:
The cartilage between the knee joints provides cushioning, and when it diminishes, the joints can rub against each other. This friction causes knee pain, swelling and stiffness. Symptoms tend to intensify during episodes of increased activity, and your ability to do everyday activities, such as getting in and out of a chair or walking up the stairs, can be limited due to restricted movement of the knee joint.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Osteoarthritis of the knee can be diagnosed with a physical exam and diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI scan, which can allow your doctor to see the condition of the cartilage in your knee joint and whether or not there are bone spurs, which indicate friction at the joint. Treatment focuses on reducing pain and stiffness, and your doctor may recommend a course of anti-inflammatories or painkillers in combination with other forms of treatment.
A physiotherapist can show you targeted exercises that improve joint flexibility and strengthen the surrounding muscles. They can also show you new, less painful ways of carrying out tasks you are struggling with, such as bending to pick something up off the floor or getting in and out of the bath.
Your doctor may also suggest the use of a brace, which can either be used to support the whole knee or to change the way weight is distributed across your knee, which will provide relief from pain if only one side of your knee is affected by arthritis.
When conservative treatment options aren't enabling you to have a decent quality of life, your doctor may suggest surgery. Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that involves damaged cartilage being removed before the bone surfaces are cleaned, and this can reduce inflammation. Osteotomy involves changing the shape of the knee bones to improve alignment and prevent the friction that occurs when the bones grind together. Arthroplasty is the replacement of the knee joint with a metal or plastic joint and is generally only recommended for those with severe osteoarthritis due to the scale of the procedure.
Osteoarthritis worsens without treatment, so if you're experiencing knee pain or stiffness, schedule an appointment with your doctor.