Knee Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Knee Arthritis

Knee arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition characterised by the inflammation and degeneration of the knee joint. This occurs when the cartilage that cushions the bones in the knees wears away and causes the bones to rub against each other, resulting in pain, stiffness, restricted mobility, and bone spur development.

There are different types of knee arthritis, including osteoarthritis, which is the most common form. Early detection and treatment of knee arthritis can help to slow its progression and manage its symptoms better, resulting in an improved quality of life.

What are the Symptoms of Knee Arthritis and How is it Diagnosed?

The following are some common knee arthritis symptoms:

  • An increase in knee pain with activity that worsens over time
  • Joint stiffness that affects the knee's ability to bend and straighten
  • Swelling or tenderness following prolonged inactivity
  • A locking or grating sensation during knee movement
  • Limited range of motion, resulting in difficulty standing, walking, or climbing stairs
  • Weakness of the knee

During the appointment, Dr Wang Lushun will assess the patient's symptoms and medical history and perform some tests in order to arrive at an accurate knee arthritis diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Physical examination - This involves examining the affected knee joint for swelling, tenderness, redness, and range of motion, as well as the patient’s gait.
  • X-rays - Here, the structures of the knee joint can be observed for any abnormalities, such as the joint space narrowing and the formation of bone spurs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan - When necessary, MRI provides precise images of the knee joint that can be used to assess bone health, the soft tissues of the knee, and the cartilage.
  • Laboratory test - In some cases, a blood test may be performed to detect possible underlying illnesses that are associated with knee pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Knee Arthritis?

Common causes of knee arthritis include:

  • Age - The risk of developing arthritis increases as one gets older; although it must be noted that arthritis is not an inevitable part of ageing.
  • Genetics - The risk of developing knee arthritis is higher for people whose family members have suffered from the same condition before.
  • Previous knee injury - Previous injury to the knees resulting from sports or accidents can increase the risk of developing knee arthritis in the future.
  • Overuse / Repeated stress - The repetitive overuse of the knees from exercising, sports, or engaging in a physically demanding job may increase the risk of developing arthritis.
  • Gender - The incidence of knee arthritis is higher among women than men, particularly after menopause whereby bone loss increases as oestrogen levels drop.
  • Obesity - Being overweight increases the stress on the knees, leading to the degeneration of cartilage and an increased risk of arthritis.
  • Lack of physical activity - A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain and weakened muscles and bones, all of which increasing the risk of joint problems such as arthritis.
  • Poor diet - Consuming a lot of processed foods, sugar, and saturated fat may contribute to the inflammation of the knee joint.
  • Smoking - Smoking can increase the risk of developing bone and joint issues, including certain types of arthritis.
  • Inadequate rest - Consistently not getting enough rest and recuperation after intense physical activity can increase the risk of developing arthritis in the future.

What are the Non-surgical Treatments for Knee Arthritis?

Initially, your orthopaedic doctor in Singapore may recommend non-surgical knee arthritis treatments for suitable cases. These may include:

  • Lifestyle modifications - Making an effort to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, being physically active, and avoiding overexertion can help to reduce pain and stress placed on the knee.
  • Medications - Over-the-counter pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), topical creams, or corticosteroid injections can help eligible patients relieve symptoms such as joint stiffness and swelling.
  • Physiotherapy - Consulting with a physiotherapist about a personalised exercise plan can help to strengthen the knee muscles and improve mobility.

What are the Surgical Treatments for Knee Arthritis?

However, should the arthritis already be at an advanced stage, surgery may be needed. Surgical treatment for knee arthritis essentially refers to either a partial or total replacement of the diseased joint with a new, bio-compatible one:

  • Partial knee replacement - This removes affected bones and cartilage that have become damaged due to arthritis and replaces them with new prostheses.
  • Total knee replacement - This procedure involves the replacement of the entire knee joint with an artificial implant to restore comfort and function.
  • Robotic knee replacement - This form of knee replacement leverages robotic technology to deliver greater consistency and precision in knee replacement surgery. A detailed 3d map of the knee is built based on data collected pre- and intra-operatively allowing for a customised surgical plan. A robot arm then assists the surgeon in performing the surgical bone cuts allowing for a personalised alignment for every patient’s knee. Dr LS Wang is a trainer for robot-assisted knee replacement surgery and teaches surgeons in the region on the use of this technology.

Knee replacement surgery provides many benefits to patients with serious knee conditions, including advanced arthritis, and usually leads to a greatly improved quality of life.

FAQ on Knee Arthritis

  • Can knee arthritis be cured?

    Knee arthritis is not curable, but Dr Wang Lushun can recommend ways to effectively manage its symptoms, including lifestyle adjustments, pain-relieving medications, therapies and rehabilitation techniques, and surgery in serious cases.

  • Can knee arthritis affect both knees?

    Knee arthritis can affect one or both knees simultaneously. Either way, the condition tends to worsen over time without treatment.

  • Can knee arthritis be prevented?

    Correcting malalignment, reducing weight and avoiding knee injury can prevent arthritis. There are several lifestyle practices that aim to reduce its risk of occurrence. These include eating a healthy diet, doing low-impact exercises, and strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee joint.

  • When should I see a doctor for knee pain arising from arthritis?

    If the pain does not subside and starts to affect your day-to-day life, it is time to seek medical attention as effective treatments are available to restore proper function and mobility of the knee.

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Arete Orthopaedic Centre

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Mount Alvernia Hospital
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