Osteoarthritis of Knee joints
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis that affects the knee joints of a person. Symptoms of osteoarthritis of knee joints are mild in the first stage but become severe by the fourth stage and may need surgery.
Osteoarthritis becomes quite painful due to the stiffness of joints. It affects the cartilage, the bones, and the synovium in the joints of the knee.
Osteoarthritis of the knee joints is a condition where wear and tear of joints occur. That is why it is also known as wear-and-tear arthritis. Due to this wearing of natural cushioning between joints and cartilage, the bones of joints rub more intimately against one another.
This decreases the shock-absorbing benefit of cartilage. Pain, stiffness, swelling, decreased ability to move, and sometimes the formation of bone spurs results due to this rubbing.
Causes of osteoarthritis of the knee joints?
Growing age is the most common cause of knee osteoarthritis. However, almost everyone has some risk of developing it at any stage. In addition to this, there are several risk factors which add to the chances of one developing osteoarthritis at any age:
Age: This is the primary reason for the development of osteoarthritis. As a person gets older, the ability of cartilage to heal becomes low.
Gender: As per research, females are more prone to develop this disease as they age. Females aged 55 and older have a greater risk.
Heredity: Certain genetic mutations may change the DNA of a persona and make them more prone to get osteoarthritis. Inherited abnormalities in the shape of the bones also increase the risk.
Higher weight: A higher weight increases the pressure on knee joints. Each pound of weight that you gain increases the extra weight on your knees by 3 to 4 pounds.
Being an athlete: Athletes like soccer ballplayers have a greater risk of developing osteoarthritis due to increased activities of joints. This puts extra pressure on their joints and makes them more prone to develop an injury.
Repeated Stress injuries: People who do a lot of physical activity and injure their joints, again and again, are at much higher risk. These activities constantly add pressure to the joints.
Existing illness: People who suffer from some metabolic disorders like excessive growth hormone have a higher risk. Further, people with rheumatoid arthritis, have a greater chance of developing osteoarthritis too.
How to know if you have osteoarthritis?
Some several signs and symptoms are typical of osteoarthritis. These include:
• Pain increases when you start some activity, which gets better when you rest.
• Joint warmness.
• Stiff joints. Stiffness is more in the morning or when you sit for longer.
• Less mobility of the knees.
• A crackly sound when the knee moves.
Osteoarthritis progresses in stages and it may take several years to develop. It becomes hard to treat as the symptoms don’t appear till the disease advances. Thus you should look for changes and indications consistently so that it becomes easier to treat. Here are the 4 main stages:
Stage I: A minor stage where osteophytes (small lump of bones) may develop in the knee area and cause slight cartilage damage. No apparent narrowing of the space between the bones is there, thus the stage is asymptomatic.
Stage II: This is a mild stage where symptoms start to develop. A person experiences stiffness and joint pain while the space between bones is still normal. However, X-ray or other scans can help a doctor detect osteophyte growth. The cartilage starts to get thinner in this stage.
Stage III: A moderate stage where the cartilage damage progresses and a narrow gap between bones exist. Cartilage loss is evident on the x-ray. Running, kneeling, walking, bending, etc. becomes painful.
Early signs of inflammation also exist. Cartilage continues to thin and break down as the osteoarthritis progresses. Bones thicken by forming lumps and swelling occurs because of the formation of extra synovial fluid. It is called water on the knee and is technically known as synovitis.
Stage 4: It is the last and most severe stage of osteoarthritis. Symptoms are clear as the cartilage breaks down while the space between joints lessens. Joints become stiffer, inflammation develops, and less fluid is present around joints. More pain develops because of the friction between joints.
In x-ray, one bone can be seen connected with bone as the cartilage is completely worn. An intense pain develops upon doing normal activities like walking, running, etc. Bone develops more lumps and bone deformation also occurs in severe cases due to asymmetric loss of cartilage. Often, surgery is the last option to cure the disease at this stage.
Diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis?
Diagnosis occurs when your doctor looks for physical signs like swelling, redness, tenderness, and flexibility in the affected area. Other than this, there are several imaging tests detects it, which include:
X-rays: X-rays are used to make an image of the affected area as cartilage doesn’t show up on the x-ray. The narrowing of space between the joints is also visible on the x-ray.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI: Detailed images of bone and soft tissues like cartilage are produced by an MRI machine that uses radio waves and magnetic field lines to do so. It provides more information about complex cases.
Besides these imaging tests, some lab tests are also there.
Blood tests: There are no blood tests for osteoarthritis but it helps role out the possibility of other joint pain problems like rheumatoid arthritis.
Analysis of joint fluid: In this procedure, a needle is used by a doctor to draw some fluid from the joints. The fluid is then analyzed to see if the pain is due to some other problem.
Treatment of knee osteoarthritis.
There is no way to reverse osteoarthritis but medications and treatments help to reduce pain, which includes:
- Medications: Medications like Acetaminophen, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs), Duloxetine (Cymbalta) help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. However, these drugs have several side effects as well. Thus, only take these drugs when your doctor recommends you.
- Therapies:Therapies like physical therapy and occupational therapy help a patient relieve symptoms. In physical therapy, regular and gentle exercises help a lot. While occupational therapy helps you to do everyday tasks without putting some extra stress on your already painful joints.
- Surgery:As the condition becomes more and more severe, surgery remains the only option. A well-qualified surgeon performs the surgery.
Besides this, Cortisone injections, lubrication injections of hyaluronic acid which lubricates the joints, also help to ease the symptoms of a patient.