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Knee Arthritis

KNEE ARTHRITIS

Description

The major types of arthritis that affect the knee are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. It is a degenerative, “wear-and-tear” type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older, but may occur in younger people, too.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. As the cartilage wears away, it becomes frayed and rough, and the protective space between the bones decreases. This can result in bone rubbing on bone, and produce painful bone spurs.
Osteoarthritis develops slowly and the pain it causes worsens over time.

 

Osteoarthritis often results in bone rubbing on bone. Bone spurs are a common feature of this form of arthritis.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that attacks multiple joints throughout the body, including the knee joint. It is symmetrical, meaning that it usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body. In rheumatoid arthritis the synovial membrane that covers the knee joint begins to swell, this results in knee pain and stiffness.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system attacks its own tissues. The immune system damages normal tissue (such as cartilage and ligaments) and softens the bone.

POSTTRAUMATIC ARTHRITIS

Posttraumatic arthritis is form of arthritis that develops after an injury to the knee. For example, a broken bone/fracture may damage the joint surface and lead to arthritis after the injury. Meniscal tears and ligament injuries (eg ACL injuries) can cause instability and additional wear on the knee joint, which over time can result in arthritis.

SYMPTOMS

A knee joint affected by arthritis may be painful and inflamed. Generally, the pain develops gradually over time, although suddenonset is also possible. There are other symptoms, as well:

  • The joint may become stiff and swollen, making it difficult to bend and straighten the knee.
  • Pain and swelling may be worse in the morning, or after sitting or resting.
  • Vigorous activity may cause pain to flare up.
  • Loose fragments of cartilage and other tissue can interfere with the smooth motion of joints. The knee may “lock” or “catch” during movement. It may creak, click, snap or make a grinding noise (crepitus).
  • Pain may cause a feeling of weakness or buckling in the knee.
  • Many people with arthritis note increased joint pain with rainy weather.

IMAGING TESTS

X-rays. These imaging tests create detailed pictures of dense structures, like bone. They can help distinguish among various forms of arthritis. X-rays of an arthritic knee may show a narrowing of the joint space, changes in the bone and the formation of bone spurs (osteophytes).
Other tests. Occasionally, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or a bone scan may be needed to determine the condition of the bone and soft tissues of your knee.

(Left) In this x-ray of a normal knee, the space between the bones indicates healthy cartilage (arrows). (Right) This x-ray of an arthritic knee shows severe loss of joint space.
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