Knee artritis is characterized by thinning of the joint cartilage The thinning usually occurs over many years.
The joint cartilage is the cartilage layer that covers the ends of our bones to form a joint. It is often confused with the meniscus of the knee or cartilage disc of the knee. It is important to understand that if the joint cartilage is worn or damaged, it causes bone to rub on bone and is a much more serious problem than meniscus problems.
There are many causes for knee arthritis. The most common cause is genetic (inherited) factors. Other causes include previous knee injuries (eg. cruciate ligament tears and fractures) and inflammatory joint diseases (eg. rheumatoid arthritis).
When the thinning in the joint cartilage is equally severe throughout the knee, the leg will remain relatively straight. If the cartilage thinning of one compartment of the knee is more severe on than the other, then a bow leg or knock knee will develop.
People with knee arthritis are initially treated non-operatively. Non operative measures include pain and anti-inflammatory medication, glucosamine medication, activity modification weight loss and physical aids.
Later on during the course of the disease, arthroscopic debridement of the knee and removal of damaged cartilage and cartilage debris is an excellent option to improve symptoms.
Patients with deformed painful legs due to arthritis at a younger age are often treated with knee realignment procedures(knee osteotomy) or unicompartmental knee replacements.
Ultimately when the knee cartilage is completely worn down to bone, a total knee replacement becomes the only option.
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