Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disorder in America, and knee arthritis is a common condition affecting millions worldwide. Estimates indicate that knee OA affects nearly 20 percent of Americans over 45. Unlike other forms of arthritis, OA is considered a degenerative condition resulting from wear and tear on the body over time.
Knee OA is caused by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the bones in the knee joint. As the cartilage wears away, the bones rub against each other, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling.
The most common symptoms of knee OA include:
- Grinding or popping noises when moving the knee
- Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
- Weakness in the leg of the affected knee
- Loss of range of motion in the affected knee
Unfortunately, the exact cause of knee OA is unknown, but several factors can increase the risk of developing the condition, including:
- Age – OA is most common after the age of 40.
- Obesity – overweight men have a five-fold increased risk of developing knee OA; for women, the risk is four-fold.
- Previous knee injuries or trauma to the ligaments surrounding the knee, including ACL tears.
- Occupations that involve repetitive kneeling or squatting.
- Genetics – OA tends to run in families.
- Gender – before age 45, OA is more common in men. After age 45, women tend to develop osteoarthritis more frequently than men.
Additionally, osteoarthritis is a significant cause of disability in people over 60. It can also increase a person's risk of death from other health conditions, including cardiovascular and kidney disease and diabetes.
Although there is no cure for knee OA, there are several treatments that can help to relieve the knee pain associated with it and to improve function. Treatment options may include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Topical creams or ointments
- Physical therapy
- Weight loss
- Injections, such as cortisone or hyaluronic acid
- Surgery, such as arthroscopic surgery or total knee replacement
Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent knee OA, but there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing the condition, including:
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Exercising regularly.
- Avoiding activities that put unnecessary stress on your knees.
- Wearing supportive shoes.
- Using a knee brace if you have a history of knee injuries.
Knee osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the knee joint. There is no cure for knee arthritis, but many treatments can help relieve pain and improve function. By following the tips outlined here, you can help to reduce your risk of developing knee OA so that you can enjoy a healthy, active life for many years to come!