Arthritis of the Knee

Arthritis of the Knee

Arthritis often results in a painful inflammation, with resultant stiffness of the joints. There are many types of arthritis, with the most common type being osteoarthritis. The knee is commonly affected with osteoarthritis.  If left untreated, arthritis can cause loss of mobility and increasing pain.

Types of Knee Arthritis

There are more than 80 different forms of arthritis, and many of these affect the knees. If you are living in pain, it is best to see your doctor as soon as possible to find out what treatment is best for you.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease affecting people of all ages. It is often characterised by painful swelling of multiple joints.  More generalised symptoms are often associated with this type of arthritis.    

Typically, a Rheumatologist manages this condition. 

Osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis)

Osteoarthritis of the knee is a slow and progressive condition that normally affects older patients, both men and women.  The exact cause is unknown; however, a hereditary component is suspected. 

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of degenerative joint disease. It occurs when the protective cartilage of the knee wears away, usually due to age or injury.

Traumatic arthritis

Following an injury such as a fracture or ligament tear, you may develop post-traumatic arthritis. This may present years after the original injury.

In many cases, the wear and tear on the knee joint is accelerated by excessive weight and continued or repeated injury. 

Causes of knee arthritis

There are many activities and lifestyle factors that can cause arthritis. These include joint injuries, genetic make-up, body weight, and other joint problems (such as gout).

Causes include:

  • Age – As we age, it takes longer for cartilage to heal.
  • Genes – It is possible to inherit mutations or abnormalities of the genes.
  • Weight – The more you weigh, the more pressure you place on your joints.
  • Gender – Women over 50 are more likely than men to develop arthritis of the knee.
  • RSI – Repetitive Stress Injuries from work or lifestyle activities may increase your chances of developing arthritis of the knee.
  • Sports – Sports are a leading cause of post-traumatic arthritis.

What you need to know

Symptoms of knee arthritis

Your symptoms will usually include pain, swelling of the knee, and weakness in the leg muscles. As the pain increases, you may start to struggle with day-to-day tasks.

Diagnosing arthritis of the knee

An initial visit to the GP will include a physical examination of the knee. Your doctor will evaluate your mobility and look for swelling, stiffness, and tenderness.

 If your GP suspects arthritis, they might request an x-ray to identify the loss of cartilage and inspect the joint itself. You may be referred for an MRI to verify that arthritis is the cause of your knee problems.



Dr Jason Ward is an orthopaedic surgeon with extensive experience in joint replacement surgery. He takes a special interest in sports injuries, keyhole surgery and robotic surgery.

Non-surgical treatment of knee arthritis

There are many non-surgical options treatment options for arthritis of the knee. Surgery should always be seen as a last resort.

In many cases, Physiotherapy may be the first step to managing your symptoms.  Gym and water-based exercise will help you strengthen your leg muscles and reduce pain.

Your GP will also look at your lifestyle and may suggest changes to your daily routine and activities.

To help with the management of osteoarthritis, simple medications like paracetamol are often useful.  Other options including using a walking aid (such as a stick or a walker).  Occasionally, cortisone (steroid) injections may be used to help relieve acute episodes of pain and inflammation. Typically, it is only when conservative management has failed and the symptoms are having an effect on your quality of life that surgery will be considered. 


An arthroscopy is a surgical procedure where the surgeon can look inside the joint using a small camera (arthroscope), and repair the joint using a small telescope (arthroscope).

Arthroscopy, or keyhole surgery, is a minimally invasive surgery technique. It is often used to treat cartilage tears, ligament injuries, and loose bodies. It is not usually recommended for osteoarthritis, but may be used if non-surgical treatments are ineffective.

Robotic knee surgery

Dr Ward may discuss the option of robotic surgery with you.  In robotic surgery, the robot arm does not perform the surgery on its own – this is still controlled by the surgeon. The robot is used to increase the precision of movements and, in partial knee replacement, to allow a minimally-invasive approach.

Surgical solutions for knee arthritis

There are many surgical treatment options available for arthritis of the knee. Dr Ward will discuss the various options and approaches with you, and together you can decide which is best for managing your arthritis. 

Here are a few of the most common surgical treatments for arthritis of the knee.


An osteotomy is a surgical procedure where the bone is cut to change its alignment.

 In patients with osteoarthritis limited to one part of the knee, an osteotomy may be used to realign the knee and relieve pressure on the affected side.

Partial knee replacement

This is also known as a unicompartmental knee replacement.  A partial knee replacement involves removing the damaged bone and cartilage and replacing it with metal and plastic components in the affected part of the knee only.  The rest of the knee remains untouched.

Total knee replacement

In a total knee replacement, the surgical procedure involves Dr Ward fully removing the affected knee joint and replacing it with an artificial knee (prosthesis).

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