Arthritis of the knee joint is a serious, painful disease that gets worse with age. Osteoarthritis is the most common type, and you can get it in one or both knees. The most common symptoms are pain, swelling and stiffness of the knee joint. There are many treatments that might help with the symptoms.
Arthritis is a disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints. It can affect the largest and strongest joints in your body. It’s common in knees. Arthritis of the knee can be a serious, debilitating disease.
Although there is no cure for knee arthritis, there are steps you can take that might ease your symptoms and potentially slow the progression of your disease.
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Three bones come together to form your knee joint. They include the:
A smooth substance called cartilage covers the ends of each bone. It’s a cushion between the bones that keeps them from rubbing together. The synovial membrane, a type of tissue that surrounds the joint, lubricates the cartilage.
Arthritis of the knee causes pain and swelling in the joint
There are around 100 types of arthritis. The most common types that might affect your knees include:
People of all ages can get arthritis, including arthritis of the knee. If you’re age 50 or older, you have a higher risk of getting knee arthritis. Women get knee arthritis more often than men.
Over 50 million adults have arthritis, as do 300,000 children. It’s unclear how many of those people have arthritis of the knee.
There are five stages of osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis that affects your knees:
Experts have identified some genes that might cause arthritis, including arthritis of the knee. They predict that there are more genes not yet discovered. You could have a gene linked to arthritis without knowing it and a virus or injury could trigger arthritis of the knee.
Though the cause is unknown, some risk factors increase the possibility of arthritis of the knee. Risk factors of osteoarthritis, specifically, include:
There are many signs and symptoms of arthritis of the knee:
Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis of the knee. Some treatments might reduce the severity of your symptoms or even stall the progression. See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of knee arthritis.
One of the symptoms of knee arthritis is swelling. Swelling causes your knee to look larger.
Your healthcare provider will probably order X-rays of your knees to check for arthritis. The X-rays should reveal:
Your healthcare provider will interview you when you report your symptoms. Some questions might include:
Arthritis in your knee will likely always affect you. But some treatments help reduce the severity of the symptoms and maybe keep the disease from getting worse.
Healthcare providers can't cure knee arthritis. But they have some tips that might reduce the severity of your symptoms and possibly stop the arthritis from getting worse, including:
Check with your healthcare provider before you try any of these tips. They’ll know what is and what is not appropriate for you depending on the stage of the disease.
You could also try medications, including:
Ask your healthcare provider if it’s OK for you to try the over-the-counter medications and supplements for arthritis of the knee.
Nonsurgical options don’t always work for everyone with knee arthritis. You might need to have a type of surgery, including an:
Most people have stage 4 arthritis when they get surgery.
Full recovery from arthritis of the knee is not possible. However, it is possible to feel less pain, swelling and stiffness because of medications, physical therapy and other treatments.
Most known causes of arthritis of the knee are unpreventable and include:
Try to maintain a healthy weight and avoid activities that put a lot of stress on your knees. Get treatment if you have symptoms of arthritis of the knee.
There is no cure for arthritis of the knee. It’s a lifelong condition. But the good news is treatment can relieve some of the symptoms. Treatment might even slow down or stop the disease from getting worse.
Arthritis of the knee can get worse with time and stress on the joint. Try treatments like medications and physical therapy to ease symptoms and possibly slow down the progress of the disease.
Pain and stiffness caused by arthritis of the knee can make walking difficult. In the later stages, your knee might even lock up. You might struggle even to move it. See your healthcare provider about treatments that might reduce your risk of such symptoms.
See your healthcare provider if you have pain, swelling or stiffness in your knees. Look for other symptoms such as warm and red skin and buckling or locking of the knee joint. You might have arthritis of the knee.
It might be helpful to arrive at your healthcare provider’s office with a list of questions you want or need to be answered. Consider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Knee arthritis can affect people of all ages. It’s painful, impairs movement and causes swelling of the joint. Some people are so disabled by it that they can’t work anymore. Others can only work after surgery. Meanwhile, for others, the pain isn’t necessarily as bad, but it still prevents them from regular activities like cleaning, gardening and running after their kids.
Arthritis of the knee can decrease your quality of life. The good news is that treatments can lessen the severity of your symptoms. The pain and swelling might not be as bad. See your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment if you have symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/18/2021.
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