Arthritis of the Knee – Types and Treatment


Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves symptoms like pain, inflammation, and swelling in is the area where two bones meet.

The knee joint, for example, is where the ends of lower leg bones (the tibia and the fibula) and the thighbone (the femur) meet. Likewise, the hip joint is formed between the thighbone (femoral head) and a concave portion of the pelvis (the acetabulum).

Medically known as the tibiofemoral joint, knee joint is the largest joint in the body and is most frequently affected by arthritis.

This joint disease affects more than 46 million American adults and this number is expected to increase to 67 million by the year 2030. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), about 580,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed every year in the U.S. and the number is growing.

There are three major types of arthritis that may affect the knee joint- Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Post-Traumatic Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA): Also referred to as the “wear and tear” arthritis, Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting 33 million people in the United States.

It is a condition that is caused by the combination of several factors, including overuse of joints, obesity, or aging. Also called ‘degenerative arthritis’, osteoarthritis is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the cartilage covering the bone ends gradually wears away.

It usually causes pain and limited motion, and often occurs in joints that bear weight, such as the knees, hips, feet, and spine. It is most prevalent among middle-aged and older people with active lifestyles.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): It is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. It is a systemic, autoimmune condition that causes the body’s immune system to produce substances that attack the body’s soft-tissues and joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age and generally affects both large and small joints in the body as well as the spine. Swelling, pain, and stiffness are often quite pronounced in rheumatoid arthritis, even when the joint is not used. The condition affects approximately 1.3 million Americans, and about 75% of them are women, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

Post-traumatic Arthritis: This form of joint arthritis can develop after any kind of physical injury to the knee in which the bone and cartilage were deteriorated. After the injury, the cartilage separates from the joint and bone and shatter into several fragments which float around freely and cause severe pain and joint stiffness.

A military injury, injury from sports, an accident, a fall, or any other source of physical trauma can damage the joint surface cartilage (osteoarthritis), destructing the mechanism of the joint and making it wear out. This disease may not surface until several years after a fracture, ligament injury, or meniscus tear.

The post-traumatic arthritis symptoms include severe joint pain, swelling, fluid accumulation in the joint, tenderness, and decreased tolerance for walking, sports, climbing stairs and other physical activities which stress the joint. It affects about 5.6 million people in the United States. The risk may be minimized by preventing injuries.

Treatment Options
The treatment for arthritis of the knee starts with nonsurgical measures, including lifestyle modifications; exercise; supportive devices; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines; heat or ice treatments and elastic bandages.

But when arthritis reaches to a point where nonsurgical treatments have failed to relieve pain and other symptoms, surgical treatment will be considered.

There are a number of surgical treatments that can offer lasting relief. Cleaning out or repairing torn cartilage and reconstructing or replacing the worn out joint surfaces are the common surgical treatments for arthritis in the joint.