What happens in a knee with Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis damages the joint cartilages – reducing the cushioning effect of joints. As the joint cartilage breaks down, the joint fluid which acts as a lubricant between the bone ends slowly leaks out from the joint and causes friction between the bone ends during joint movements.
This leads to joint pain, swelling and difficulty in moving. Later stages of changes in joints are irreversible, when bone structures and joint capsules are permanently damaged.
You may initially feel a toothache-type of pain in the affected joint that gets worse when you are active, wearing high heels or when it’s cold and damp. It may progress to a stage where your feet ache at night. In severe cases, the range of movement in the joint may fail to the extent that you can’t move it at all. The symptoms of OA tend to be mild in most cases and do not always worsen; but it can vary – coming and going over time.
How severe is your Osteoarthritis in the knee?
The Kellgren-Lawrence grading system is commonly used to classify and to diagnose knee OA. This grading’s descriptions mainly depends on the radiological changes in the knee joint. There are 4 main classifications following the progression of Knee Osteoarthritis and pain.
☑ Stage 1 – Doubtful OA
- This is the start of osteoarthritis and your knee looks normal
- No breaks in the joint cartilages observed; formation of small bone spurs visible in X-rays or MRIs of the knee joint
- Some discomfort experienced in the knee joint after long hours of walking or running; no limitation to activities
☑ Stage 2 – Mild OA
- Your knee starts to warm up; no changes to knee joint alignment.
- Joint cartilage starts breaking down; more visible bone spurs in X-rays or MRIs of the knee joint
- Pain is experienced when walking for long hours in a day
☑ Stage 3 – Moderate OA
- Your knee is swollen and warm; changes in knee joint alignment occurs.
- Joint cartilage broken down, bones rub against each other and very distinct changes visible in X-rays or MRIs – irreversible damages
- Pain is experienced when walking, running, using stairs. Joint is still stiff in the morning after long hours of rest; pain may cause poor sleep
☑ Stage 4 – Severe OA
- Your knee is swollen and warm; permanent changes in knee joint alignment observed.
- Joint cartilages mostly gone, joint space is nearly invisible and bones are almost in contact with each other.
- All joint lubricant has leaked away and can no longer allow smooth knee movements; great pain and discomfort is experienced all the time – most daily activities are limited due to pain.
If you are worried that you have OA, do visit us or your general physician. The earlier the diagnosis, the more effective the treatment. If you do have OA, there are many ways to help improve the condition.