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Arthritis of the knee: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About arthritis of the knee

Arthritis of the knee is referred to inflammation of the knee joint followed by limitation of movement. A joint consists of ends of bones, enclosing capsule and supporting cartilages, all of which may get involved in arthritis. Knee joint is a complex hinge joint supported by various cartilages. Arthritis of the knee may be affected in either osteoarthritis which occurs as a result of degenerative changes of joint cartilages or rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disease.

Arthritis of the knee: Incidence, age and sex

Arthritis may be seen in an individual of any age group. Osteoarthritis of knee is more common in the fifth decade and thereafter. Likewise, rheumatoid arthritis is more commonly seen in young and middle aged women.

Signs and symptoms of arthritis of the knee: Diagnosis

Arthritis of the knee is a long standing disease, with periods of remission and relapse. Pain and swelling in and around knee joint are some of the common complaints of individuals. The skin over knee may show redness and may feel warm on touching. Prolonged rest may result in stiffness of the knee joint. Osteoarthritis of the knee which is a load bearing joint is very commonly seen in general population. Individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee may find difficulty in sitting down and also in standing up from sitting position. Sometimes deformities like knock knee and bow legs may occur in advanced stages of disease. Rheumatoid arthritis of the knee joint is characterised by joint pain, swelling, morning stiffness and progressive deformity. It may also lead to nonspecific features like loss of weight, fatigue and muscle aches. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, seen in children, involves eyes along with joints.

Causes and prevention of arthritis of the knee

Several causes may lead to arthritis of the knee, of which degeneration of joints as a part of aging is the commonest factor leading to osteoarthritis. Factors like meniscal tear or other trauma to knee may trigger arthritis of the knee joint. Since knee joint is a load bearing joint, obesity is one of the most potent risk factor for its osteoarthritis. Moreover positive family history of osteoarthritis of knee may also play a vital role. Sometimes an individual’s immune system may work against one’s own body and cause damage to the knee joint as seen in rheumatoid arthritis. Balanced diet, regular physical exercise and weight management may play a role in preventing arthritis of the knee.

Arthritis of the knee: Complications

Sometimes knee pain remains unresolved in spite of analgesic medications. This long standing pain coupled with limited range of movement at the knee may hamper one’s social and personal life and activities. Moreover any delay in treatment may result in disability and loss of function of the knee joint. The complications of rheumatoid arthritis of the knee may be severe resulting in heart failure, lung disease and spinal problems. Deformity of knee joint like bow leg and knock knee may also occur, if it is left untreated for a long time.

Arthritis of the knee: Treatment

The management of arthritis of the knee depends upon the type of arthritis an individual is afflicted with. Medications like NSAIDs which help in reducing pain, swelling and inflammation of knee joint are the mainstay of treatment in osteoarthritis. The doctor may also prescribe steroid injections if other analgesics do not provide sufficient relief. Adequate support to joint by splinting, braces or muscle strengthening exercises may further help by providing good joint support. Restriction of knee movement during periods of inflammation and adequate weight management may help in rapid recovery. In addition to this, rheumatoid arthritis of knee may also need some potent medications like azathioprine, penicillamine or methotrexate for adequate healing. Some of these medications may suppress immune system leading to increased chances of infections. Moreover knee replacement surgery is recommended when above measures fail to relieve pain and restore normal movement at knee joint.

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