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Osteoarthritis of the Knee

What is osteoarthritis ?

Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative arthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis. Arthritis is what happens when the tissue that protects the bones wears away. This tissue is called cartilage (say: car-till-edge). Osteoarthritis in the knee can be a painful problem.

What causes osteoarthritis ?

Doctors don't know what causes joint cartilage to wear away. But they do know that osteoarthritis is more common as you get older or if you are very overweight. Sometimes a serious knee injury can bring on arthritis after a few years.

How can my doctor tell if I have osteoarthritis ?

Your doctor can find out if you have osteoarthritis by asking you questions and examining your knee. Your doctor may want to take x-rays of your knee or test your blood. X-rays can help your doctor see how serious the problem is. Blood tests can rule out other forms of arthritis.

How will my doctor treat my osteoarthritis ?

Medicines and physical therapy can help manage the pain caused by osteoarthritis. Your doctor may tell you to use pain-relieving creams or sprays that you apply to your skin around your knee. Your doctor may also tell you to take oral medications such as acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) to relieve pain or anti-inflammatory medicines that range from over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen (one brand name: Advil) to prescription-only drugs.

Physical therapy is a special exercise program with a trained therapist who helps you regain movement and flexibility of your knee while also trying to relieve pain. These exercises may also strengthen your muscles around your knee for more stability and balance. You will almost certainly need physical therapy if you choose to have knee surgery.

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