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Can You Get Rheumatoid Arthritis in a Knee?

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can affect your knees and any other joint in your body. 

It’s an immune system disorder in which the body attacks itself, and especially the joints. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes it.

What Are the Symptoms of Knee RA?

You may feel:

  • Pain
  • Swelling, inflammation
  • Stiffness
  • Warmth around the knee
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis

When you see your doctor, you’ll get a physical exam and talk about your personal and family medical histories. You may also get blood tests to help see if you have RA. Those check for:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Rheumatoid factor (RF), found in about 70% to 80% of people with RA
  • “Sed” rate (erythrocyte sedimentation rate). High levels are a sign of inflammation.
  • Antibodies to a chemical called CCP
  • High levels of CRP (C-reactive protein)

You may also get an X-ray and an MRI to check on possible joint damage. And your doctor may take a sample of your synovial fluid, which comes from your joints.  

Treatment

There are different kinds of RA medications. Some ease pain. Others curb inflammation or stop the disease from getting worse.

You may need to take more than one -- for instance, a pain medication and another to stop the disease’s progress. It’s best to start early, to help protect your joints.

Regular exercise is also important to the muscles around the knee and helps support the joint. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy and occupational therapy, too.

Will I Need Knee Surgery?

Your doctor will most likely recommend other treatments first. Knee replacement surgery is usually a last resort.

Some people get surgery to remove the inflamed joint lining. Your doctor may call that lining the “synovium” and the procedure a “synovectomy.” The operation can relieve knee pain for up to 5 years.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 11, 2014
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