One of the most common reasons for knee pain is arthritis of the knee joint. And of over 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), are the most common types of arthritis in the knee.
Arthritis refers to the pain and swelling of the joints and usually develops over many years eventually making physical activity difficult. Knowing the warning signs of arthritis and what treatment options are available can help change your lifestyle and diet habits.
The most complex and largest joint in the human body is the knee joint. Depending on the cause of the pain and stiffness, the early symptoms of arthritis in the knee will differ from person to person.
OA is the biggest cause of knee arthritis. Typically appearing after middle age, the cartilage in the knee begins to disappear after many years of wear and tear. RA, which affects the immune system, can flare up at any point in life and cause joint pain throughout the body.
Knee arthritis can also be the result of a damaged joint when a patient has had a knee fracture, ligament injury, or a torn meniscus.
Symptoms of knee arthritis include:
In some cases, like RA, arthritis can come on suddenly, but most arthritis pain appears gradually.
You’re most likely to first notice knee arthritis in the morning when you’re stiff and achy after not having moved through the night. Or you might feel pain in your knees when you try to stand up, sit down, or kneel, or climb some stairs.
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night because of knee pain, the cause is most likely OA.
When it comes to people with RA, symptoms usually begin outside the knee, in smaller joints, affecting both sides of the body. These symptoms can appear over several weeks or worsen in a matter of days. When the activity of the RA disease increases flare-ups can happen, especially when patients attempt to change their medication.
In general, OA symptoms gradually develop over several years. At some point symptoms can become worse, remain stable for a period of time, or the pain can fluctuate day-to-day. Risk factors that can cause knee pain to increase include stress, cold weather, and increased physical activity.
Knees can sometimes become inflamed due to arthritis.
OA can cause either a hard swelling because bone spurs have formed in the knee, or soft swelling because fluid has gathered around the joint space.
Inflammatory diseases like RA regularly cause swelling. But since RA affects the whole body, and not just joints, patients also have to deal with a host of other symptoms including fever and fatigue.
Knee arthritis sometimes limits a person’s range of motion so greatly that they need a cane or a walker to help them get around.
OA has such a significant effect on the bone and cartilage in the knee that it takes great effort to move your knee joints smoothly. Just walking or standing up can become difficult.
The pain and swelling associated with RA can also greatly affect someone’s ability to stand and walk.
X-rays can reveal other symptoms of arthritis in the knee that are not immediately obvious. Cartilage functions to cushion the knee joint by occupying the space around it. As it becomes damaged and worn away, it leaves space around the joint causing a good deal of pain.
Knees can eventually start to buckle or give way once the knee joint becomes so bad that it causes the knee to be unstable. Tendons, which connect muscle to bone, can also become damaged and affect the knee’s stability.
When you’ve lost a certain amount of cartilage in your knee, you may feel a kind of grinding or hear a popping sound when you try to straighten or bend your knee. Both RA and OA can cause this kind of cartilage damage.
There are a number of techniques that can help you manage knee arthritis. These include:
- Physical therapy
- Weight loss
- Anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDs
- Knee injections containing stem cells and platelet-rich plasma
Do you have knee pain or are suffering from arthritis? Are you interested in participating in a clinical trial?