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Knee Arthritis

Hip bursitis

Arthritis is a condition where the cartilage that protects bones gets worn down, so bones rub against each other. There are many different types of arthritis, and they can affect people at any age. It is often common in the knee.

What is knee arthritis?

There are different types of arthritis that can affect the knee, three of the most common are:

Osteoarthritis – is the most common form of knee arthritis. It develops over time, as wear and tear happens to cartilage, so it gets worn and eventually worn away completely. Without the cushioning effect of cartilage, your bones painfully grate against each other.

Rheumatoid arthritis – occurs when the immune system doesn’t work properly and attacks the joints, due to chronic inflammatory disease.

Post-traumatic arthritis – develops after a knee injury (e.g. ligament injuries or a broken knee).

What are the symptoms of knee arthritis?

The symptoms of knee arthritis can differ, depending on the type of arthritis that you have. Some common symptoms are:

  • Pain – this can increase after activity
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Difficulty moving or bending the affected knee
  • Redness
  • Sensation or sound of “crunching” – your bones rubbing against each other
  • Buckling or weakness in the knee
  • Change in the knee’s appearance

What causes knee arthritis?

The cause of knee arthritis varies, depending on what type of arthritis you have. Osteoporosis is caused by general use of the bones over time, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder.

Your consultant will be able to discuss further what has caused your knee arthritis once they determine which type you have.

How is knee arthritis diagnosed?

If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms above, and think you might have knee arthritis, you should speak to your consultant.

Your consultant will ask you about your medical history and also perform a physical examination, which will allow them to check for signs of arthritis visually and through touch. You may be asked to walk, so the consultant can see your gait.

They also may recommend that you undergo additional tests including:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRIs

If they suspect you have a certain type of arthritis, you also may have blood samples taken.

How is knee arthritis treated?

There are both surgical and non-surgical options for treating knee arthritis that you may undergo depending on the severity and which type of arthritis you have.

Surgical options include:

  • Knee replacement surgery (total or partial) – the damaged, diseased or diminished knee is replaced with a prosthetic
  • Knee arthroscopy – your consultant will insert a small telescope camera (arthroscope) in the knee to assess where it might be damaged and remove any outside objects (e.g. bone fragments) that could be causing discomfort
  • Cartilage grafting – cartilage from somewhere else in your body is grafted around the knee

Non-surgical options include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications
  • Using a cane or stick
  • Injections
  • Physiotherapy
  • Lifestyle changes (e.g. weight loss, adjusting physical activities)

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Professor David Barrett  ›

Professor Barrett is a Consultant Orthopaedic Knee Surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital and Professor of Orthopaedic Biomedical Engineering at Southampton University.

Knee Health Check Package

Book your knee health check for £595.

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Knee Surgery

Find your specialist in knee arthritis at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have knee arthritis and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading knee and rheumatology specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Professor David Barrett  ›
Special interests include:
Knee surgery (+ 3) more
Mr Sean Curry  ›
Special interests include:
Hip surgery (+ 3) more
Mr Chethan Jayadev  ›
Special interests include:
Knee surgery (+ 4) more
Mr Gareth G Jones  ›
Special interests include:
Knee surgery (+ 10) more
Mr Luke Jones  ›
Special interests include:
ACL Surgery (+ 8) more
Mr Alex Liddle  ›
Special interests include:
Hip replacement (+ 5) more
Mr Robert Marston  ›
Special interests include:
Lower limb trauma (+ 8) more
Mr Sam Oussedik  ›
Special interests include:
Sports injuries (+ 6) more
Mr Mark Webb  ›
Special interests include:
Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (+ 10) more
Mr Paul Culpan  ›
Special interests include:
Hip surgery (+ 10) more

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