Osteoarthritis of the knee is a degenerative and “wear and tear” disease that occurs most often in older people, but can also occur in younger people due to previous knee injuries. The cartilage gradually wears away, diminishing the protection of the bones.
The knee is one of the joints of the human skeleton in which osteoarthritis most frequently develops.
The reason for the great frequency of osteoarthritis of the knee, compared to other joints in the body, is that the knee is a “load-bearing” joint, that is, it has to support the weight of the body and the objects that we carry, when we stand or when we move walking, running, going up or down stairs.
Knee osteoarthritis generally develops slowly and the progression of pain usually follows the same progression, although it may occur with spontaneous decompensation (primary osteoarthritis).
Sometimes osteoarthritis is due to previous knee injuries, both ligamentous and meniscal or cartilage, accelerating the onset of symptoms (secondary osteoarthritis).
What are the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis?
The fundamental symptom of the patient with knee osteoarthritis is pain. At first, the pain is very mild, it only appears when a very important physical activity has been carried out and it subsides quickly with rest.
When the disease has established itself, it is normal for the patient to notice greater discomfort when he begins to walk, with symptoms improving after walking for a while.
Added to the pain is a sensation of stiffness and difficulty in flexing and extending the leg, which is also more intense after having remained at rest for a long time. Another symptom is a clicking sensation, which occurs when the knee is flexed.
Knee pain is greatest when going up and down stairs, when the patient squats, and when walking on uneven ground. In more severe osteoarthritis, the patient may notice symptoms even at rest.
With greater physical exertion than usual (a longer walk, for example), the pain worsens, becomes continuous, and even the knee swells due to the formation of an effusion.
The most common symptoms are:
- Pain in the knee.
- Leg failure when loading on it.
- Inflammation of the joint.
- Joint stiffness.
In cases in which more advanced stages of the disease are reached, in addition to the pain, which becomes more continuous and intense, the patient suffers a decrease in the movements that he can perform with the knee (for example, he cannot flex or extend completely the leg).
Certain deformities of the joint and alterations in the alignment of the bones, with bowing of the lower extremity, may also appear. It is common for the patient to limp when walking and for the knee to weaken, with the patient noting with some frequency a feeling of “failure” in the knee when taking steps.