What is Knee Arthritis?
Arthritis is caused by wear of the cartilage that covers the bones around joints. Cartilage provides a nice smooth surface to allow mobility. When this cartilage wears out, the bone eventually becomes exposed. The condition can affect any joint in the body. The knee is one of the most common joints to be affected.
The condition can range from very mild to very severe. When the cartilage shows some minor wear in the joint, the arthritis is considered mild. Eventually, the cartilage can completely wear out and the underlying bone can become exposed. When this occurs, the arthritis is considered severe.
There are many causes of arthritis. Trauma to a joint, such as a fracture, can damage cartilage and eventually lead to arthritis. A prior infection in the joint can eventually lead to cartilage damage that causes arthritis. There are many inflammatory conditions that cause arthritis. Some of these conditions include: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and lupus.
There is certainly a hereditary component to arthritis. Many people who develop knee arthritis have a someone in the family who had arthritis in the past.
A prior ligament injury can predispose someone to developing arthritis later in life.
Excessive weight (obesity) is frequently responsible for the development of knee arthritis.
In many cases, there is no obvious cause to explain the arthritis. This is called “idiopathic arthritis”.
The diagnosis of arthritis can generally be made after a clinical examination by a physician and plain X-rays. A basic X-ray can usually demonstrate how much of the cartilage has been lost. The patient should be standing up when the X-rays are taken to more accurately determine the degree of arthritis.
An MRI scan is not generally useful in making the diagnosis of arthritis.
Under the supervision of your doctor, it is important to try various non-surgical treatments before deciding to proceed with surgery. However, as the disease progresses, many patients experience worsening pain, and eventually, the decide to proceed with surgery.