Osteoarthritis is a condition of the joints wherein the cartilage begins to break down. While it can affect any joint of the body, it most commonly occurs in the articular cartilage of the knees because of the stress that they endure on a daily basis. It is problematic because the cartilage acts as a cushion to prevent the bones that are connected by tendons from rubbing together. While the substance is strong and somewhat rubbery by nature, it is made up of about 85% water. When a person ages, this amount of water decreases to 70% or less, which makes the cartilage more susceptible to damage. Since there are no blood vessels that connect to it, the body often cannot replace the tissue. Some people are more susceptible to osteoarthritis than others though. It is important to understand the symptoms of the condition and the treatment options that are available for it.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Knees
Shooting pain in the knees is the most common sign that a person has this condition. The pain will occur during activities that require movement of the joints though, such as walking, running, bending, or climbing stairs. The reason that a person feels pain in their knees when they have osteoarthritis is because their cartilage has already worn down to the point where the ends of their bones have started to rub together. It is also common to experience swelling and stiffness because the friction causes inflammation that makes movement more difficult. Sometimes, if the condition goes untreated for too long, a person may actually be able to hear grinding sounds coming from their knees too.
People Who Have the Highest Risk of Osteoarthritis of the Knees
Those who work in jobs that require them to perform constant repetitive movements get this condition the most. That is one reason why some doctors call it the “wear and tear” disease of the knees. However, it can also occur in people who are morbidly obese because their weight causes a great deal of stress on their joints. Age seems to be a factor too since the natural decrease in the water content of the cartilage as a person gets older makes the knees more susceptible to damage.
How Osteoarthritis of the Knees Can Be Treated
After testing to confirm that a person does indeed have osteoarthritis of the knees, a doctor will begin the treatment process. But the treatment that a person gets will depend on the severity of their cartilage damage and how long their condition has gone untreated. If the condition is mild, then cortisone and hyaluronic acid injections may be given to a patient to help with the pain and swelling. Mild pain relievers that help reduce inflammation might also be prescribed. If neither of these options help, knee surgery is often required to replace the joint with an artificial one. After the knee surgery is done, doctors often suggest that their patients work on reducing their weight and the activities that caused the damage.
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POSMC is a full-service medical facility specializing in the evaluation and treatment of orthopedic injuries. The practice is led by a group of 12 board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. Contact us today!