The following article was written by Dr. Vilas Saldanha, Orthopedic Surgeon at Texas Orthopedics
Knee Arthritis – Understanding the Disease, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Non-Surgical Treatment
Knee arthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is the most common form of arthritis, with an estimated 14% of adults over the age of 25 having symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. Knee arthritis is characterized by the gradual deterioration of the cartilage that cushions the knee joint, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.
The primary cause of knee arthritis is age-related wear and tear on the joint, although it can also be caused by injury, obesity, genetics, and other underlying medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. As the cartilage wears down, the bones in the knee joint begin to rub against each other, causing pain, inflammation, and reduced mobility. Other factors that increase the risk of knee arthritis include repetitive stress from sports or work activities, previous knee injuries, and family history.
The most common symptoms of knee arthritis include pain, stiffness, swelling, and a popping or cracking sound when moving the knee. Patients may also experience difficulty walking or standing for extended periods, as well as limited range of motion in the affected knee. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the extent of the cartilage damage.
To diagnose knee arthritis, a physician will perform a physical exam, review the patient’s medical history, and order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans. These tests can help identify the extent of the cartilage damage and determine the best course of treatment. Blood tests may also be ordered to rule out other underlying medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.
Non-surgical treatment options for knee arthritis include:
- Medications – Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Physical Therapy – Exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint can help improve stability and flexibility, reducing pain and stiffness.
- Weight Loss – Losing weight can reduce the load on the knee joint, decreasing pain and slowing the progression of the disease.
- Injections – Corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid injections can help reduce pain and inflammation in the knee joint. Other specialty injections can include platelet rich plasma.
- Assistive Devices – Using a cane, brace, or other assistive device can help take pressure off the knee joint and improve mobility.
In conclusion, while knee arthritis can be a debilitating condition, there are many non-surgical treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Patients should work closely with their healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment based on their individual needs and medical history.
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