Arthritis is a general term covering numerous conditions where the joint surface wears out. The joint surface is covered by a smooth surface called cartilage that facilitates movement of the joint.
When the articular cartilage wears out, the bone ends rub on one another and cause pain. This most common type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (also referred to as wear and tear arthritis) and occurs with aging and use. Other causes include:
- Connective tissue disorders.
- Developmental disorders affecting the knee.
- Inactive lifestyle and obesity (overweight); Weight is the single most important link between diet and arthritis as being overweight puts an additional burden on the hips, knees, ankles and feet.
- Inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Knee arthritis causes pain and decreased mobility of the knee joint.
In addition to history and physical exam, diagnosis is confirmed by X-rays. In an arthritic knee, there is decreased and sometimes absent joint space.
There is no cure for arthritis. Current treatment options are guided by the severity of the disease and symptoms.
If you have early arthritis of the knee, the first-line treatment consists of:
- Rest and activity modifications: avoid repetitive and high impact activities such as running, jumping, or heavy lifting.
- Following a gentle, regular exercise program like swimming, water aerobics, walking on even, non-inclined terrain, or cycling to keep the joint functioning and improve its strength and motion.
- Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, if no contraindications exist to these medications.
- Weight loss, if applicable.
Knee replacement surgery
For advanced symptomatic stages of arthritis that are not responsive to nonsurgical treatment, partial or total knee replacement may be recommended.