Condition: Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful disease of the knee joint, in which both the bone and the elastic part of the joint called cartilage may break down.
Background: OA affects about 16-20 million Americans. Among people over age 65, more than half have OA. Older women and African-American women are more likely than men to have OA of the knee.
Risk Factors: People who are overweight, or have had infections or other diseases or injuries that affect the knee joints are at increased risk of developing knee OA.
History and Symptoms: Knee pain while walking or running is the main symptom of OA. Rest may relieve the pain, but as time goes on the pain may return more often and last longer. The knees may also become stiff (especially in the morning), swollen, and weak.
Physical Exam: Your physician will look to see if your knees are swollen or tender, or if the muscles around your knee appear shrunken. There may also be a grinding or crunching sound when you bend your knee.
Diagnostic Process: Tests of the blood and fluid around the knees may be done to look for signs of inflammation. X-rays are used to show the stage of the disease. Other imaging tests may also be used if the x-rays do not provide a clear diagnosis.
Rehab Management: If exercise can be tolerated, it can help people with OA stay active, maintain strength, and cope with pain. You may see a rehabilitation specialist to help decide which type of exercise is best. Losing weight is another important part of managing OA. Pain medications may help, but care must be taken to watch for side effects such as bleeding in the stomach or intestines, or allergic reactions.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Weight loss and exercise programs may be helpful for patients and families.