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Arthritis is a serious inflammatory medical condition that affects the joints of the body. Knee arthritis is an especially common cause of pain in the knee. The knee can be affected by almost any type of arthritis as there are about a hundred types, however, there are a few types that are very common to the knee. Knee arthritis causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the knee, making it difficult to carry out many daily activities like going up and down a flight of stairs, and even taking a step is difficult.
The most common types of arthritis known to affect the knee are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lyme disease-related arthritis, gouty arthritis or reactive arthritis. Arthritis due to mechanical damage are osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. Arthritis due to various autoimmune forms include rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis. Arthritis due to infections are lyme disease-related arthritis and gouty arthritis. A few of them are discussed below:
Osteoarthritis: the most common type of knee arthritis is osteoarthritis. It results when the cartilages that cushion the effect of bone rubbing against bone wear out. When this happens, the bones of the knee joint begin to rub against each other causing formation of bone spurs on the ends of the bones. Osteoarthritis develops gradually, with the pain it causes worsening over time.
Rheumatoid arthritis: this is a symmetrical type of knee arthritis, i.e. it affects the same joint on both sides of the body. It is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is caused by the immune system attacking and destroying tissues of the body including ligaments, cartilages and bones, instead of protecting them. The synovial membrane covering the knee joint starts to swell, resulting in stiffness and pain.
Post-traumatic arthritis: this type of arthritis is usually a result of old injuries that have happened years back. Injuries or tears to the knee joint in time past can lead to arthritis later in future.
Gouty arthritis: this is a form of arthritis resulting from the deposition of uric acid in the joints, including the knee joint. Uric acid is formed as a waste product when the body breaks down tissue. Uric acid crystals behave like tiny needles to the knee joint and so can cause inflammation, swelling and pain. When arthritis occurs in a single joint of the lower limbs with a rapid onset, gouty arthritis is highly suggested.
Lyme disease-related arthritis: in the occurrence of lyme disease, the knee joint is often the first joint to be affected. It is caused by the spirochete bacteria when it invades the knee joint and causes inflammation of the tissue lining it.
Knee arthritis is very prevalent among people older than the age of 50. The following puts one at a higher risk of developing knee arthritis:
Age: you are prone to developing knee arthritis if you are 40 years or older. This is because joints get worn-out overtime, and bones, cartilages, and ligaments are not as strong as when one was younger. Also, the ability of cartilage to heal decreases with age.
Sex: knee arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, is commoner and more severe in women.
Weight: being overweight puts extra pressure on the joints and can worsen joint problems. Weight loss has been confirmed to reduce the intensity of pain associated with knee arthritis.
Family history: a family history of the condition puts you at a higher risk of developing knee arthritis.
Other risk factors include:
A person with knee arthritis generally feels pain as a result of inflammation of the knee joint. The pain usually intensifies as the condition worsens, although it can occur suddenly too. Other symptoms of knee arthritis include:
Redness and warmth over the area are suggestive of gouty arthritis, however these can occur with almost any type of arthritis depending on the extent of inflammation.
A doctor will usually be able to diagnose knee arthritis after a physical exam, imaging testing and studying, and lab studies have been carried out. The doctor will start out by reviewing your medical history and then proceeding to look at the knee. He may ask you to walk on it if you can. He will check for possible signs of arthritis and injury around knee, and then he will check for symmetry, as some types of arthritis only affect one knee while others affect both knees.
A doctor will then order imaging studies to be carried out in order to confirm or dismiss some conditions. The following imaging tests are carried out: X-ray scan, a computerized tomography scan, CT scan, and a magnetic resonance imaging scan, MRI scan. These imaging tests will help a doctor identify the type of knee arthritis, and its cause(s).
Lab tests for rheumatoid factor can help confirm a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Rheumatoid factor is an antibody that is found in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Gouty arthritis can be confirmed with a uric acid test.
There is no cure for knee arthritis, however, the condition can be well managed with a variety of treatment options. Just talk to doctor on which option is best for you. Treatment options for knee arthritis can be categorized into the following: home remedies, alternative therapies, medications and surgery.
Home remedies: Home remedies are usually suitable for the early stages of knee arthritis, i.e. stages when the symptoms are still less intense. however, you should still go for checkups to confirm the symptoms are not from more threatening conditions. Examples of home remedies for knee arthritis include:
Alternative therapies: Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, balneotherapy, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation might also help provide relief from pain and other symptoms. These methods, however, have not been corroborated with evidence for all people with arthritis.
Medication: Medication is usually resorted to if the previous treatment options do not improve condition. Medication that can be taken include: duloxetine (an antidepressant that may help with chronic pain), capsaicin (from pepper, is present in some creams and ointments), risedronate (a treatment for osteoporosis, but may help preserve cartilage), and hyaluronic acid injections (increase the viscosity of synovial fluid, and may help with osteoarthritis).
Surgery: Knee surgery is generally the last resort for knee arthritis. Examples of surgery carried out include: arthroscopy, cartilage grafting, and total or partial knee replacements.