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Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, a chronic condition that affects the joints. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that pads the bones in the joint wears down over time, causing the bones to rub together painfully. The symptoms can be severe for many people, especially as the condition advances. Here’s an overview of important things you should know — and remember, if you have joint pain or stiffness that won’t go away, request an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative, wear-and-tear condition of a joint — in this case the knee. The normally smooth joint (articular) surface becomes roughened and worn over time. This can be the result of prior injury or trauma, chronic overuse, infection, autoimmune disease (rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis), or congenital malformation.
The main symptom of osteoarthritis of the knee is pain, especially when walking or weight bearing. You may also experience giving way of the knee, locking of the knee, swelling, warmth, or a feeling of grating or grinding in the knee.
Population based studies have shown that overweight women have nearly four times the risk of osteoarthritis and overweight men have five times the risk. Being just ten pounds overweight increases the force on the knee by 30 to 60 pounds with each step.
Initial treatments include pain relievers (Tylenol) anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxen), activity modification, bracing, and physical therapy. Injections can also be used. Cortisone injections decrease the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, thereby reducing the pain. Viscosupplementation injections cushion and lubricate the interior of the joint.
Joint replacement surgery is considered if the patient no longer wishes to tolerate their pain and resultant disability, diagnostic studies (XR/MRI) show advanced arthritic changes, and nonsurgical treatments have been unsuccessful in controlling symptoms. Other factors include patient medical status and age.