​What Is Osteoarthritis? What Are Its Symptoms & How Do You Treat It?

What Does Osteoarthritis Look Like? 

Yorkshire Knee Clinic’s Dave Duffy takes a camera inside an osteoarthritic knee and compares it to a healthy joint.

See the difference for yourself in this video:


Arthritis of the knee diagram

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Knee osteoarthritis is caused by damage to or the wearing down of articular cartilage. This is the material which covers the surfaces of the bones in the knee joint. Without the articular cartilage, bone grinds on bone.

Knee osteoarthritis can affect any or all of the three main parts of the knee:

  • The medial compartment
  • The lateral compartment; and
  • The patello-femoral joint – ‘knee cap’

The medial (inner) compartment is the commonest site for knee arthritis affecting a single compartment.

You may find knee osteoarthritis arises as the result of a cartilage injury (we know, for example, that a torn cartilage increases the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis later in life), but it can also occur without any history of injury or damage to the knee.

What Are The Symptoms Of Knee Osteoarthritis?

Most of the patients who approach our knee consultants about their osteoarthritis will experience varying degrees of knee pain. You might feel a relatively mild background ache in the knee which might interfere with sporting activities or a long walk. At the other end of the spectrum, you might experience constant severe disabling pain which makes walking very difficult or impossible.

You may find it difficult to perform the normal activities of daily living because of arthritis of the knee, and the condition can be sufficiently severe to affect your sleep. You may continue to feel pain even when you are at rest.

Sometimes, because of the roughening of the knee joint surface, you may feel catching, clicking, clunking or similar symptoms as well as pain. In more severe cases of osteoarthritis these are less significant than the underlying pain.

Additionally, you may well see your knee joint swelling.

Talk to the Yorkshire Knee Clinic about your knee condition
Osteoarthritis knee x-ray

How Do You Diagnose Knee Osteoarthritis?

We diagnose osteoarthritis based on the typical symptoms of this condition along with examination.

If you have suspected knee osteoarthritis, our orthopaedic consultants will usually take an x-ray of the knee to confirm the diagnosis.

How Do You Treat Knee Osteoarthritis?

If you have osteoarthritis of the knee you have probably undertaken some form of treatment before coming to see a Yorkshire Knee Clinic knee surgeon. It’s important to note that knee replacement, whilst hugely effective in treating osteoarthritis, will rarely (if ever) be used as a first course of action because of the inherent risks associated with all forms of surgery.

For that reason, virtually all our patients will have tried (or be encouraged to try) several of the following:

  • Simple, over-the-counter painkillers or anti-inflammatory tablets
  • Injections of cortisone or other substances
  • Weight loss
  • Modifying activities
  • Physiotherapy

Where your osteoarthritis is combined with certain mechanical symptoms, such as loose fragments causing the knee to lock, arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) may improve the symptoms although it is not a treatment for the osteoarthritis itself and will rarely be used where there is severe osteoarthritis.

Once non-surgical routes are no longer having an impact, you and your Yorkshire Knee Clinic knee surgeon may decide that the pain has reached the point where the only option is knee arthroplasty. Knee arthroplasty is a general term for knee replacement. Your knee replacement could be total or partial (uni-compartmental).

Talke To Us About Your Knee Osteoarthritis

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