Osteoarthritis of the knee is a very common condition, usually presenting as pain and stiffness in the knee. Articular cartilage normally lines the femur, tibia and patella inside the healthy knee. Osteoarthritis represents inflammation of the joint due to the progressive loss of this important cushioning surface. As the cushion is lost, the normal forces passing through this weight-bearing joint are no longer absorbed and instead cause micro trauma to the underlying bone, thus causing inflammation which gives you an aching pain.
Our specialists at Schoen Clinic will guide you through all your options, both conservative treatments and evidence-based surgical procedures, to remove your symptoms as quickly and as effectively as possible.
Knee osteoarthritis: what is it exactly?
We are all born with a healthy amount of cartilage covering the ends of the bones that make up the knee. This surface cartilage can wear down over time. Specialists refer to this as primary osteoarthritis of the knee. Sometimes, diseases that cause inflammation inside joints can also erode the surfaces prematurely e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, gout and psoriasis.
In addition, previous damage to ligaments or cartilage injury can also lead to a premature “post traumatic” worn surface and cause pain and instability at a younger age than might be expected from the normal aging process.
Diagnosis: how we determine that you suffer from knee osteoarthritis?
Our experts at Schoen Clinic will check whether you suffer from knee osteoarthritis through in-depth consultation and thorough examination.
We will establish whether your knee is swollen and test its range of movement. Usually, it is possible through gentle palpation to establish the areas of maximum sensitivity which also helps better understand the degree and distribution of any degenerative change.
X-ray imaging shows changes in the knee joint
Having taken a full history and examined you, we will carry out x-ray examinations during your appointment. We use a series of special views of the knee to assess different parts of the joint. These where possible with the full weight on the joint as this creates a more accurate image of the reality of the loss of protective cushion. If the “space” between the bones is seen to be reduced, this means that the articular cartilage has been eroded. In extreme cases, the two bones will be touching.
Additional examinations in special cases
On occasion, we may choose to add another layer of imaging in addition to the plain radiographs. An MRI can sometimes be useful to assess soft tissue problems, cartilage tears and loose bodies in the knee, that often co-exist with OA. On rare occasions, a blood sample may be required or a sample of the fluid taken from inside the knee. Analysis of these will help exclude infections of a systemic inflammatory arthritis.
Osteoarthritis of the knee symptoms
Osteoarthritis of the knee can present with either pain, stiffness, swelling or instability. The exact symptoms depend on the location of wear within the knee. The following symptoms are signs of osteoarthritis of the knee:
- Pain during longer walks or when going up and downstairs.
- Swelling in the knee capsule is often present.
- Occasional pain at the back of the knee, due to a Bakers Cyst.
- Sometimes the knee can become unstable too and keep giving way on certain movements.
- In the early stage, the knee may be swollen and may hurt during activity.
- If more advanced, it can even cause pain at rest. Eventually, you may hear grinding and crunching noises in the knees on movement.
Causes of osteoarthritic knee: how does it develop?
Primary Osteoarthritis is an age-related wearing of the knee joint leading to Pain, Deformity and Loss of function. Secondary Osteoarthritis is due to:
- Inflammatory joint disease
- Previous cartilage surgery/meniscectomy
- Previous Ligament injury
- Previous Trauma to Knee
- Previous infection in knee