Knee osteoarthritis : from the first signs to disability
It all begins with joint pain that flares up when playing certain sports, going up or down stairs, and sometimes just walking. The medical examination eliminates other knee pathologies, including hip osteoarthritis that can cause knee pain, and determines the diagnosis: knee osteoarthritis, or gonarthrosis. The knee is a major weight-bearing joint and so this disease becomes progressively incapacitating. The flare-ups become more frequent, the pain worsens, leading to stiffness and reduced movement, thus jeopardizing the patient’s overall mobility. A deformation of the knee can be observed in the advanced stages of gonarthrosis.
But what is knee osteoarthritis ?
The knee is the joint between the femur, the tibia, and the patella. The sliding surfaces of these bones are covered with cartilage, which helps absorb shocks. Gonarthrosis is the degenerative wear of this cartilage. However, it is not this wear and tear that causes the pain, but the inflammation of the joint due to excess rubbing as a result of the deterioration. Knee osteoarthritis most often concerns the joint between the femur and the tibia (femorotibial osteoarthritis); it can also affect the joint between the patella and the femur (patellofemoral osteoarthritis), or the entire joint (“generalized” knee osteoarthritis). In most cases, it affects both knees. An x-ray will determine whether it is “primary” osteoarthritis due to the aging of the joint or “secondary” osteoarthritis resulting from a trauma.
Relieving and treating knee osteoarthritis
In the early stages of the disease, certain lifestyle choices can help attenuate the effects. Watching your weight is essential, as excess weight is a risk factor and can worsen knee osteoarthritis. Likewise, appropriate physical activities are highly recommended. Anti-inflammatories are prescribed to relieve the pain and injections of hyaluronic acid and corticosteroids can be considered if necessary. Surgery can be considered as a last resort or in the later stages of the disease: an arthroscopy can be carried out to clean the joint and remove the particles causing the inflammation; an osteotomy can be carried out to realign the knee structure, which can be the cause of the gonarthrosis. Finally, TOTAL knee replacement (total knee arthroplasty), can be performed to replace the worn joint with a synthetic joint and thus enable the patient to recover good joint mobility and return to a normal life.