By Fred J. McGlynn, MD
A growing number of adults struggle with knee arthritis on a regular basis. In fact, one in five adults experience some type of knee pain during their lives. There are a number of factors, including age, that play a major role in the prevalence.
Let’s look at the causes of osteoarthritis in the knee, what the symptoms are, and how you can deal with them.
Age is a Factor in Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is caused by the thinning of the natural cushioning between joints. That contact between adjacent joint surfaces rubbing together causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. This can lead to a loss of motion and day-to-day problems with knee function.
Osteoarthritis is especially common for those 50 and older as the cartilage loses its water content and resiliency. Essentially, as we get older the knee can’t heal the way it used to.
Another important factor is genetics. Arthritis can occur in younger people, often due to an inherited issue rather than overuse of the joint. Those who are overweight or obese also deal with knee pain because of the weight load carried by the joints.
A prior knee injury, with a meniscus injury in particular, can lead to future osteoarthritis. In addition, injuries to the joint surface, as well as ligament damage, lead to higher incidences of arthritis.
Lastly, there are other types of arthritis due to illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Rather than the cartilage wearing away due to age, use, or injury, in these cases there’s an autoimmune process impacting the lining of the joint. Once inflamed, it can release substances that destroy the surface of the joint.
Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis
One of the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis is pain due to activity, i.e. the more active you are, the more your knee hurts. If you have osteoarthritis, it’s common for the knee to swell and for it to be stiff the day after exercise. You may also deal with stiffness after sitting for long periods of time.
Some may also hear popping noises as they try to extend their leg or walk. Others find it difficult to get in and out of the car or up from a chair. In those instances, if you have osteoarthritis it might feel like your knee is giving way or buckling.
Osteoarthritis is a common condition but one that varies greatly depending on the factors discussed above.
If you are dealing with constant pain in your knee, schedule an appointment with Tuckahoe Orthopaedics today to talk about ways we can help.