Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a serious type of inflammatory arthritis that affects 1.3 million Americans. In 75% of cases, RA affects women. RA can affect people of any age, even very young children.
Unlike osteoarthritis (OA), the "wear-and-tear" arthritis, RA is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints. RA usually occurs in a symmetrical pattern, affecting both hands, knees, ankles, feet, hips, elbows, and shoulders.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), also called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA), is the most common childhood arthritis. This disease may affect up to 294,000 children in North America alone.
Getting dressed, tying shoelaces, or walking to the car may be painful with knee arthritis. But with early and aggressive medical treatment, most cases of knee RA can be managed.
What Is Knee RA?
Rheumatoid arthritis of the knee causes the joints to become tender, warm, and swollen. Although knee osteoarthritis causes pain and stiffness, joint pain with knee RA is more severe.
Normally, a small pouch covered with a thin tissue called synovium lies between the two pieces of joint cartilage. Cartilage is a material that covers the ends of joint bones. Cartilage helps to keep bones from rubbing against each other during movement.
The synovium secretes a liquid. This liquid helps keep joints lubricated. When joints are well lubricated, they move smoothly and painlessly. Inflammation of the synovium leads to damage and permanent destruction of the joint.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Knee RA?
With knee RA, you may feel the following:
Warmth around the knee joints
What Causes Knee RA?
The actual causes of RA are not understood. We know that RA occurs when the body's own immune system doesn't function properly.
RA may be linked to genetics. Environmental factors also may be involved. But, experts are unsure of the exact cause.
How Is Knee RA Diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose knee RA. He or she will do a physical exam, talk with you about your personal and family medical history, and perform blood tests.
Blood tests for RA may be positive for the following: