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Knee arthritis is the wearing away of normal healthy cartilage of the knee. Loss of this cartilage causes the rough underlying bone to rub against bone and cause inflammation and pain. The knee often wears more on one side of the joint which can lead to the knee bowing out or in.
Causes of knee arthritis include aging, genetics, obesity, prior knee surgery and previous injury to the knee.
Patients with knee arthritis report pain along the joint line and behind the knee cap with prolonged activity. It is often made worse with stairs or rising from a seat. Patients also report catching and buckling of the knee and commonly have pain with changes in weather.
The diagnosis is made from discussing your symptoms, examining the painful knee and evaluating x-rays.
Nonsurgical treatment includes: activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid or gel injections, the use of a cane and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around your knee.
For severe knee arthritis that has failed nonsurgical treatment, total or partial knee replacement is an option. Total knee replacement is indicated for patients with arthritis in more than one area of their knee or with severe deformity. During this surgery the surgeon shaves off the arthritic ends of the femur bone and tibia bone and caps them with metal implants. A plastic spacer is used as the new bearing surface.
Partial knee replacement is indicated for patients with arthritis isolated to one area of their knee. This only addresses the painful area of the knee and patients keep the healthy areas of their knee. This speeds recovery and feels more like a normal knee.