What is knee arthritis?
Knee arthritis is a condition which involves pain, swelling and stiffness in the knee joint. This happens due to the wearing away of the cartilage which prevents the bones of the knee joint from rubbing together.
Among the most common forms of knee arthritis are; knee osteoarthritis, which involves the wearing away of protective cartilage; post-traumatic knee arthritis, which is related to an old injury to the knee or a surrounding joint; gouty arthritis, which involves crystals of uric acid collecting in the knee joint; and rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder that involves healthy cartilage cells being attacked by the immune system.
Symptoms of knee arthritis
Among the main symptoms of knee arthritis are; pain, which can sometimes appear to be affected by weather conditions; swelling; weakness and consequent instability; stiffness; a popping or clicking sound when the knee is moved (known as crepitus); redness on the joint; and a 'warm' feeling in the joint.
Symptoms of knee arthritis usually get worse over time. In some cases, those in the latter stages of the condition can experience severely inhibited movement and joint deformities.
Causes of knee arthritis
The cause of knee arthritis will vary according to the type of arthritis. Knee osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing away of the cartilage, and typically develops after the age of 50. Post-traumatic knee osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing away of cartilage as a direct consequence of an injury. Gouty knee arthritis is caused by age and is associated with risk factors such as a family history of having the condition, being male, and being obese. The cause of rheumatoid knee arthritis is not yet known, but it is thought that there may be genetic factors.
Treatment options for knee arthritis
There are several home therapies which can be effective in treating knee arthritis, especially in the early stages. These include; opting for lower impact physical activities and exercises which put less pressure on the knee joint; losing weight; ice or heat treatment to reduce inflammation; physical strengthening and stretching exercises; and the wearing of an elastic bandage or knee brace.
Medications which can provide relief from the pain caused by knee arthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. There are also other medications which can be prescribed depending on the severity and type of the condition.
Alternative therapies to treat knee arthritis include; acupuncture, balneotherapy, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
If the treatments outlined above have proven ineffective, surgery can be advised for knee arthritis. Surgical treatment options include; arthroscopy, which involves the insertion of small instruments to identify damaged areas and repair them; cartilage grafting, involving a piece of cartilage taken from another area of the body and grafted in the knee joint; and a partial or total knee replacement.