Osteoarthritis involves the breakdown and eventual loss of joint cartilage – a protein substance that cushions the bones at the joint. As we age, this protective cartilage slowly erodes until the underlying bone is exposed, resulting in pain when the joint moves and bears weight.

While osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, it commonly affects the knees and hips.

Although the root cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis is influenced by factors such as age, gender and inherited traits that affect the shape and stability of your joints.

Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms

If you have osteoarthritis of the knee, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Knee pain while standing or walking short distances, climbing up or down stairs, or getting in and out of chairs
  • 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

Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you may have knee osteoarthritis, he or she will perform a physical examination and order some tests to help diagnose your problem. These may include:

  • Physical exam
  • X-rays
  • CT
  • MRI
  • Blood tests
  • Joint aspiration

Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment

Most patients who come to see us for a consultation want to leave with a plan of action. Depending on the information your knee specialist can gather from your clinical exam, as well as your imaging studies, he or she will try to provide you a treatment plan that day.

Whether your knee osteoarthritis 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 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, our expert surgeons perform the most common knee surgeries using the latest advancements.

Patients with early- to mid-stage knee osteoarthritis may be good candidates for MAKOplasty® partial knee replacement. If you have advanced knee osteoarthritis, your doctor may recommend total knee replacement.