In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joint gradually wears away. There is inflammation and resultant stiffness and pain in the course of cartilage degeneration. Osteoarthritis may be caused by or aggravated by excess emphasis on the joint from repeated trauma, deformity, or excess weight. It most often affects middle-aged and older people.
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A younger person who develops osteoarthritis may have an inherited form of illness or may have experienced problems as a consequence of injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis often affects people at an earlier age than osteoarthritis. Regardless of the type of arthritis causing knee symptoms, the final result is often the same. A person who has arthritis in the knee may experience pain, swelling, and a decrease in knee motion. A common symptom is morning stiffness that gets better as the person moves around. Sometimes the joint locks or clicks when the knee is bent and straightened. However, these signs may occur in other knee disorders as well. The doctor may confirm the diagnosis by performing a physical examination and examining magnetic resonance (MR) scans. These reveal the inner structure of the knee.
Most often arthritis in the knee is treated initially with pain-reducing medicines, such as analgesics and anti-inflammatory medicines.
The normal knee joint produces synovial fluid, a thick slippery substance that nourishes cartilage and allows smooth gliding of the cartilage surfaces. The amount of synovial fluid taken by the joint is reduced with arthritis.
In instances when other therapies don’t provide the desired relief, viscosupplements are sometimes used. These are gel-like substances (hyaluronates) that mimic the properties of naturally occurring joint fluid.
These hyaluronates actually supplement the viscous properties of synovial fluid. Injection of hyaluronates is done using either fluoroscopic or ultrasound needle guidance.
Currently, hyaluronate injections are approved for the processing of osteoarthritis of the knee in those who’ve failed to meet the more conservative therapy. The number of injections performed varies according to the type of viscosupplement used. Usually 5 injections are necessary for the best response.
Sometimes, a doctor will perform an arthroscopy before providing viscosupplement. Also, a special type of brace to help unload the narrowed portion of the knee may serve to help the viscosupplement work better.