Knee Arthritis: Conditions and Treatment

Osteoarthritis and Inflammatory Arthritis of the Knee

Arthritis of the knee is very common. You may know a member of the extended family that has osteoarthritis in their knees. This can affect walking and day to day activities such that a person’s quality of life suffers. Thankfully the condition is treatable and many patients are able to resume their usual activities. We explore briefly the different forms of arthritis in the knee and their treatment options.



1. What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the inflammation and deterioration of cartilage within the joint, and is also known as degenerative joint disease. It occurs slowly over time and is more common in persons above 50 years of age. It affects many joints in our body including the spine, hand and fingers, and hips. The knee is a very common location of osteoarthritis to occur. The breakdown in cartilage and gradual destruction of the joint can cause pain and deformity. Osteoarthritis can occur as a general condition in many joints with age. It can also be accelerated in individual joints that have previous sports ligament injuries, trauma, accidents or infection.

2. What are symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee include

3. What is Inflammatory Arthritis and how is it different?

Inflammatory arthritis is a form of arthritis which occurs due to an overactive immune system. They are generally less common than osteoarthritis. Due to the nature of the overactive immune system, this form of arthritis can affect multiple joints in the body over a long period of time. Symptoms of inflammatory arthritis include:

3 of the more common forms of inflammatory arthritis include:

Arthritis that destroys the knee cartilage can lead to debilitating chronic knee pain. In such cases, a Partial Knee Replacement or Total Knee Replacement may be suitable and help to alleviate pain and restore function to the knee.

4. How do I know if I have Osteoarthritis?

Patients who have chronic knee pain with activities should consider seeing an Orthopaedic Surgeon for an assessment. Your doctor will take a thorough history and examination of your knee. He will examine your knee for any swellings or deformity and assess if the knee is stiff or has lost motion. Standing x-rays of the knees can detect osteoarthritis and loss of joint space. In early cases, a MRI of the knee may be useful to detect smaller cartilage lesions and meniscus injuries.

5. Referred pain to the knee

Osteoarthritis has a spectrum of symptoms. Many patients have mild to moderate symptoms and this is usually well managed with periods of rest and activity modification. Medical therapy and recommendations include

In severe cases where the above recommendations have been unsuccessful, surgery is an option to treat osteoarthritis of the knee.

6. What Knee Treatment Options are available for Osteoarthritis?

Surgery is recommended for patients who have failed conservative treatment options mentioned above. It aims to remove knee pain and help the patient to walk and resume normal activities. It restores motion in the knee and is generally a very successful treatment option.

Most patients will benefit from a form of knee replacement. This can be a Partial Knee Replacement or a Total Knee Replacement. Do visit our surgery resource page to understand more. Other options such as Osteotomies around the knee aim to re-align the lower limb and offload the diseased knee compartment. Fewer patients are suitable for this option.

7. When should I see an Orthopaedic Surgeon for Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can be managed well once the diagnosis is made. If you have been experiencing chronic low grade knee pain for more than 3 months, a visit to your doctor is useful in establishing a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Acute intense pain that does not resolve within a day or two should warrant early medical attention. This can be an acute flare of osteoarthritis, inflammatory joint problems or even infection.

Contact Dr Kau for an appointment. He has special interest in Hip and Knee conditions and is Fellowship Trained in Adult Reconstruction Joint Replacement Surgery with many years of experience.