Arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint. It is more commonly known as wearing out of our joints. When arthritis occurs, cartilage (which is the material that covers the ends of the bones) begins to wear leading to inflammation and pain.
When enough cartilage wears off then bone will be exposed and lead to persistent pain and disability. There are many different types of arthritis.
These can include Osteoarthritis and inflammatory types such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis. In these types the joints are inflamed because of crystals or the body attacking its own tissues. Osteoarthritis is the “wear and tear” arthritis and is the most common type. This is the arthritis that usually affects older individuals and is most commonly seen in the hands, knees and hips.
X-ray showing arthritis of the right knee with loss of cartilage and bone on bone contact.
Arthritis Signs and Symptoms
Most people with arthritis have one or more of the signs and symptoms listed below. When these symptoms are severe enough patients will find themselves limiting their activities and changing their lifestyles.
Pain in and around the joints
Swelling in and around the joints
Stiffness after prolonged sitting and in the morning
Pain with weather changes
Pain in the back of the knee (Baker’s Cyst)
It is usually at this point when patients seek medical attention for their condition. There are many effective treatments available. Patients who suffer with this disease should seek medical treatment to discuss their options.
Once arthritis sets in there is no way to reverse the damage that is done. Treatment can range from things as simple as exercise to as involved as injections and medications.
Most patients are given an overall program that includes a variety of treatment options. The goals of treatment are therefore to decrease the patient's discomfort, increase the patient's function, and to hopefully protect the joints from further damage. Our doctors believe that a crucial part of the treatment plan is to educate the patient regarding their condition so that they may be an integral part of the treatment plan.
When the pain and other symptoms can no longer be managed by non-operative methods then surgery is your best option. The belief that one needs to be completely disabled before considering joint replacement is not only false but dangerous. Studies have shown that patients that wait too long to have their joints replaced can have a harder recovery and poorer outcomes.
This procedure involves making 2-3 poke holes into the joint and removing torn cartilage or loose material from the joint. Although this procedure was commonly used in the past to treat arthritis, there are limited indications at this time for using arthroscopy in the knee. The main reason that its used less often is that is has not shown to provide any long lasting relief for moderate to severe arthritis. Its commonly used for treating cartilage tears.