Arthritis of the knee is a disease that wears away the cartilage in the knee joint. Cartilage is a tough yet flexible connective tissue found in many areas of our bodies, including the joints.
Knee Arthritis Care at UVM Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center doctors use a collaborative approach to treating arthritis of the knee. Your team may include a number of different specialists working together to manage your care. We use the most sophisticated medical technology available for diagnosing and treating arthritis, including the latest advances in imaging scans and complex orthopedic surgery. Your treatment will depend on the cause and severity of your arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is also called "wear and tear" arthritis because the condition develops over many years. It is a slowly progressive, degenerative disease, which occurs when inflammation or injury to the joint causes the cartilage to break down. The breakdown leads to pain and swelling in the joint. Osteoarthritis most often occurs in patients who are 50 years of age or older.
Risk factors include:
- Family history
- Previous injuries or disorders
- Repetitive stress injuries, often relating to a person's job
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the joint lining becomes inflamed due to systemic disease. This can lead to severe deterioration of multiple joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's own immune system is attacking healthy cells and tissues. Doctors do not know what causes the disease, though they believe genetic factors play a role. Rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs when people reach middle age, though it can develop earlier. It is more common among women.
This type of arthritis occurs after an injury to the knee, though it may take years to develop.
Psoriatic arthritis affects some people who have psoriasis, a serious skin condition. The symptoms can range from relatively mild to severe, and they can affect any part of the body. Patients may experience periods of flare-ups alternating with periods of remission.
Risk factors include:
- A family history of the disease
If you have knee pain that continues for more than two weeks, make an appointment with your doctor. Symptoms of arthritis of the knee include joint pain, difficulty getting out of chairs, using the steps, or hearing a creaky sound when you move the knee.
Diagnosing Arthritis of the Knee
Your doctor will begin the diagnosis by asking you about your symptoms and your medical and family history. Make sure to describe your symptoms thoroughly. Tell your doctor what makes the pain better or worse. This helps us determine if the problem is arthritis or is something else may be causing the pain. We will also perform a thorough physical examination to determine how well your knee moves.
Other diagnostic procedures include:
- Laboratory tests - We may order a blood test to determine if the arthritis is caused by an infection or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Imaging tests - We use the most advanced imaging technology available. These procedures provide us with a detailed picture of the inside of your body. They help us determine if the problem is arthritis or if another condition is causing the pain. Imaging tests include:
- X-ray shows us the condition of the bone. We can see if the space between your bones has narrowed and if there are calcium deposits in the joints.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can provide detailed images of the muscles and tendons that we cannot see on a standard X-ray. Usually, however, we do not need to perform an MRI.
Treatments for Knee Arthritis
Once we obtain an accurate diagnosis, we will create your individualized treatment plan. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery.