Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. While it can damage any joint in your body, it commonly affects the knees and hips. It involves the breakdown and eventual loss of joint cartilage – a protein substance that cushions the bones at the joint.
If you have osteoarthritis, your top layer of cartilage has worn away, allowing your bones to rub together.
What Causes Knee Osteoarthritis?
Although the root cause of OA is unknown, the risk of developing osteoarthritis is influenced by factors such as age, gender and inherited traits that 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
If you have osteoarthritis in your knee, you may experience the following symptoms:
- 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 moving 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
How is Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you may have osteoarthritis, he will perform a physical examination and order some tests to help him diagnose your problem. These may include:
- Physical exam: Your doctor 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 your knee.
- X-rays: 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 there are bone spurs present.
- CT or MRI: One of these imaging tests may be necessary to determine exactly where the damage is and the extent.
- Blood tests: Blood tests can rule out other causes for your symptoms.
- Joint aspiration: This test involves drawing fluid from the joint through a needle and examining the fluid under a microscope.
Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis
Whether your OA is mild or severe, your doctor will most likely recommend certain lifestyle changes to reduce stress on your knee joints. Other non-surgical pain management strategies may include:
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
- Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or topical pain relieving creams
You may be a candidate for surgery if your symptoms do not respond to non-surgical solutions, or if your pain can no longer be controlled by medication. At Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, our expert surgeons perform the most common knee surgeries using the latest advancements:
Patients with early to mid-stage osteoarthritis may be good candidates for MAKOplasty partial knee resurfacing. If you have advanced OA, your doctor may recommend total knee replacement.
Learn more about Knee Replacement surgery and MAKOplasty® Partial Knee Resurfacing.