Osteoarthritis of knee is characterized by the gradual deterioration of articular cartilage and leads to the appearance of pain with physical activity, variable inability to walk and remain standing, as well as progressive deformity of the knee. In general, it is typical of older people, although it can appear before the age of 50, being exceptional in young people.
Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis
As in osteoarthritis that affects other joints, the most frequent symptoms are pain, stiffness, deformity and loss of function. It is characteristic of osteoarthritis of knee to have pain and stiffness when trying to get up, after sitting for a while. This pain and stiffness disappear initially with the first steps but it reappears after walking a more or less variable distance. The pain gradually subsides with rest.
What are the causes of knee osteoarthritis?
It is not known. The cause of knee osteoarthritis, like all other types of osteoarthritis, is believed to be the consequence of a sum of genetic and environmental factors. Among the environmental factors that increase the risk of osteoarthritis are age (the older the more likely to have osteoarthritis), certain occupations or work activities and excessive physical exercise. Other times knee osteoarthritis occurs as a result of previous joint injury or abnormality such as the meniscus, ligament, or joint bone injuries, following intra-articular bone fractures.
The diagnosis is based on the symptoms along with the examination of the knee. In some occasions, if the patient presents swelling of the knee, joint fluid can be removed to analyze it and confirm that the characteristics are typical of osteoarthritis.
X-rays are also useful to confirm the diagnosis since the typical findings of osteoarthritis will appear and will allow establishing a prognosis according to whether the knee is more or less worn.
The goal of treatment is to improve pain and improve quality of life. For this, several alternatives are available: physical measures, drugs and surgery.
As for the drugs used in osteoarthritis, two main groups stand out:
Rapid-acting analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs: This group includes paracetamol, anti-inflammatory drugs (oral or topical), and opioids, such as tramadol. Generally, treatment with paracetamol is usually started and if the pain is not controlled, anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids are added depending on the characteristics of the patient and the symptoms that they present. Corticosteroids administered into the joint through an infiltration may also be useful as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee, especially in patients with signs of inflammation.
Slow-acting drugs also called SySADOA (“Symptomatic slow-acting drugs for osteoarthritis”): The drugs included in this group, in addition to controlling pain, help preserve cartilage and slow disease progression. The drugs included in this group are chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate and diacerein that are administered orally and hyaluronic acid that is administered through an infiltration inside the knee joint.
You might also want to read: Knee arthroscopy
At Harley Street Hospital, we have some of the best specialists to diagnose and treat osteoarthritis of knee. Book an appointment to get a checkup.