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Osteoarthritis of the Knee

OSTEOARTHRITIS (courtesy of WedMD)

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. It is a degenerative, "wear-and-tear" type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older, although it may occur in younger people, too.  In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. As the cartilage wears away, it becomes frayed and rough, and the protective space between the bones decreases. This can result in bone rubbing on bone, and produce painful bone spurs.  Osteoarthritis usually develops slowly and the pain it causes worsens over time.

The most common cause of osteoarthritis of the knee is age. Almost everyone will eventually develop some degree of osteoarthritis. However, several factors increase the risk of developing significant arthritis at an earlier age.

  • Age. The ability of cartilage to heal decreases as a person gets older.
  • Weight. Weight increases pressure on all the joints, especially the knees. Every pound of weight you gain adds 3 to 4 pounds of extra weight on your knees.
  • Heredity. This includes genetic mutations that might make a person more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee. It may also be due to inherited abnormalities in the shape of the bones that surround the knee joint.
  • Gender. Women ages 55 and older are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis of the knee.
  • Repetitive stress injuries. These are usually a result of the type of job a person has. People with certain occupations that include a lot of activity that can stress the joint, such as kneeling, squatting, or lifting heavy weights (55 pounds or more), are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee because of the constant pressure on the joint.
  • Athletics. Athletes involved in soccer, tennis, or long-distance running may be at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee. That means athletes should take precautions to avoid injury. However, it's important to note that regular moderate exercise strengthens joints and can decrease the risk of osteoarthritis. In fact, weak muscles around the knee can lead to osteoarthritis.
  • Other illnesses. People with rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common type of arthritis, are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis. People with certain metabolic disorders, such as iron overload or excess growth hormone, also run a higher risk of osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis may include:

  • pain that increases when you are active, but gets a little better with rest
  • swelling
  • feeling of warmth in the joint
  • stiffness in the knee, especially in the morning or when you have been sitting for a while
  • decrease in mobility of the knee, making it difficult to get in and out of chairs or cars, use the stairs, or walk
  • creaking, crackly sound that is heard when the knee moves

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