Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a form of arthritis and a degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown and eventual loss of joint cartilage. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a cushion between the bones of a joint. With OA, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, allowing bones under the cartilage to rub together.

Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Although the root cause of OA is unknown, the risk of developing symptomatic OA is influenced by multiple factors such as age (over 50), gender and inherited traits that can affect the shape and stability of your joints. Other factors can include:

  • A previous knee injury
  • Repetitive strain on the knee
  • Improper joint alignment
  • Being overweight
  • Exercise or sports-generated stress placed on the knee joints

Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee include:

  • Pain while standing or walking short distances, climbing up or down stairs, or getting in and out of chairs
  • Knee pain with activity
  • Start up pain or stiffness when activities are initiated from a sitting position
  • Stiffness in your knee joint after getting out of bed
  • Swelling in one or more areas of the knee
  • A grating sensation or crunching feeling when you use your knee.

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

Your physician will begin by reviewing your medical history and symptoms. He or she will observe the natural movement of your knee, evaluate your knee and ankle joint alignment, and check your reflexes, muscle strength, range of motion and ligament stability in the affected knee. Your physician may order X-rays to determine how much joint or bone damage has been done, how much cartilage has been lost and if any bone spurs are present. Additional medical imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be ordered to determine exactly where the damage is and its extent. Your physician may also order blood tests to rule out other causes of symptoms, or order a joint aspiration, which involves drawing fluid from the joint through a needle and examining the fluid under a microscope.

Treating Osteoarthritis

Whether your OA is mild or severe, your physician will most likely recommend that you make certain lifestyle changes to reduce stress on your knee joints. Additional disease and pain management strategies may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Topical pain relieving creams.

The most common surgical knee intervention performed for OA is a knee replacement - total or partial. During a total knee replacement, the natural joint is removed and replaced with an artificial implant. This treatment option is usually offered to patients with advanced osteoarthritis of the knee. For people with early- to mid-stage osteoarthritis in just one or two compartments of the knee, partial replacement using the Mako® Partial Knee Resurfacing system may be a more appropriate solution.

If you need a referral to an osteoarthritis specialist or surgeon on the staff of Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center, call our free physician referral service at 702-388-4888.