The knee joint is composed of three bones: the kneecap (patella), thigh bone (femur), and shin bone (tibia).
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, occurs when this articular cartilage wears away. Although arthritis is typically the result of gradual wear and tear of the cartilage, this process may also occur following previous injuries or surgeries. In addition to the loss of cartilage, in patients with arthritis bone spurs often develop in the bones of the knee joint.
Signs & Symptoms:
Patients with arthritis of the knee typically report pain throughout the knee. The pain is worse with weight-bearing activities, such as walking or prolonged standing. Patients may also notice intermittent swelling in the knee and/or a grinding sensation with knee movement. As the arthritis progresses, there may be a loss of range of motion in the knee. Some patients complain of pain associated with weather changes.
The diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee is typically made by a combination of the patient’s history, the findings on physical examination, and x-rays.
Treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee depends upon the severity of the arthritis and the patients symptoms. Initially non-surgical treatment methods are recommended; options include: activity modifications, weight loss for patients who are overweight, use of assistive devices (such as a brace, a cane, or a walker), nutritional supplements (such as glucosamine and chondroitin), and medications (such as Tylenol or anti-inflammatory medications).
If these options fail to control the symptoms, injections into the knee, either in the form of a steroid (such as cortisone) or viscosupplementation injections (such as Synvisc or Hyalgan) may be attempted. If these injections are unsuccessful, knee replacement surgery is recommended. In this surgery, the arthritic ends of the bones are cut away and replaced by metal and plastic components.
Watch an Explanation of Knee Osteoarthritis and Treatment from Dr. Farber