Knee Osteoarthritis:
What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Osteoarthritis of the knee is a condition affecting the knee joint in which the cartilage gradually deteriorates. This leads to pain and makes it difficult for you to move your knee.

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The Knee Joint

The knee is a hinge joint that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. A healthy knee is stable and moves smoothly. The ends of the bones in the knee joint are covered in cartilage. This cartilage creates a gliding surface that allows the knee to move freely.

Osteoarthritis in the Knee

In knee osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee becomes thinner, weaker, and frayed. In some cases, it wears away completely. As a result, the bones in the joint to rub together, which can cause them to wear away and change shape. This wear generally causes pain and makes it more difficult to move the joint. That wear is not reversible; osteoarthritis is not curable.
The knee can be worn out in various places: on the inner side (medial osteoarthritis), the outer side (lateral osteoarthritis), or the front (patellofemoral osteoarthritis). Combinations of these are also common.

Complaints and Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis causes mostly pain and motion complaints. The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain, both when getting up or straining the knee and while at rest
  • Stiffness and “startup” pain
  • Swelling of the knee joint
  • Difficulty moving the knee or limited motion
  • Crunching noise when moving the knee
  • Pain at night

In the early stages, you mainly experience pain after heavy exertion. As the osteoarthritis progresses, you might also experience pain during your daily activities or at night.

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Healthy knee
Arthritic knee

Causes of Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the knee can have various causes. The most common are:

  • Aging of the joints
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Previous knee surgery, in which, for example, the meniscus (or part of it) has been removed
  • An unstable knee joint due to slack or torn ligaments
  • Rheumatic disorders
  • Bone fractures in which the cartilage was also damaged
  • Metabolic disorders
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