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