Dear H.C.: Your knee is the largest joint in your body and one of the most complex. It is also vital to movement. Because you use it so much, it is vulnerable to injury. Because it is made up of so many parts, many different things can go wrong.
There are three different types of arthritis that can occur in your knees. The most common type is osteoarthritis, a progressive disease that slowly wears away joint cartilage. This type of arthritis is most likely to strike after middle age. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that can strike at any age. When arthritis develops following an injury to the knee, it is called post-traumatic arthritis. It can occur years after a torn meniscus, injury to ligament, or fracture of the knee.
Knee arthritis typically affects patients over 50 years of age. It is more common in patients who are overweight, and weight loss tends to reduce the symptoms associated with knee arthritis. There is also a genetic predisposition to this condition, meaning knee arthritis tends to run in families.
Symptoms tend to progress as the condition worsen; and do not always progress steadily with time. Often patients report good months and bad months, or symptoms that fluctuate with the weather. Comparing the symptoms of arthritis on one particular day may not accurately represent the overall progression of the condition.
The most common symptoms of knee arthritis are: Pain with activities, limited range of motion, stiffness of the knee, swelling of the joint, tenderness along the joint, a feeling the joint may “give out”, deformity of the joint (knock-knees or bow-legs).
Evaluation of a patient with knee arthritis should begin with a physical examination and X-rays. These can serve as a baseline to evaluate later examinations and determine progression of the condition.