#condition - Knee

Knee Arthritis

  • The ends of the bones inside the knee are covered in a layer of smooth white cartilage
  • Arthritis is a group of conditions in which this cartilage wears away, eventually exposing bare bone
  • Arthritis in the knee causes pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Other symptoms may include clicking, giving way or locking
  • X-rays and MRI scans are useful in diagnosing and assessing the severity of the condition
  • Early arthritis may respond to anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy
  • More serious arthritis may be helped by injections into the joint
  • Severe arthritis is commonly treated by joint replacement surgery (knee replacement)
  • Damage limited to just one part of the joint may be treated with a partial knee replacement

Arthritis of the knee is a painful condition, where the cartilage in the knee joint wears away, leaving bone rubbing on bone within the joint. The symptoms are normally an aching or burning pain within the joint, swelling and stiffness. Sometimes there may also be cartilage tears or loose pieces of cartilage or bone within the joint, and these may cause sudden sharp pains, locking (when the knee becomes fixed) or giving way of the knee. With severe arthritis, the joint becomes very painful and stiff and the knee may become deformed, leading to either a bow legged or knock kneed appearance.

X-rays of a normal knee (left) and an arthritic knee (right).

X-rays of a normal knee (left) and an arthritic knee (right).

Image of a patient with severe osteoarthritis of the right knee - note the swelling of the knee with the varus deformity (bow legs).

Image of a patient with severe osteoarthritis of the right knee – note the swelling of the knee with the varus deformity (bow legs).

Non-surgical treatment options for early knee arthritis include:

  • Walking aids
  • Glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulphate tablets
  • Simple painkillers
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Physiotherapy
  • Joint injections (of steroid or hyaluronic acid)

When the various non-operative measures have failed to control the symptoms of knee arthritis, surgical treatment becomes an option for those patients with significant symptoms.

Surgical treatments for arthritis of the knee include: