Can You Get Rheumatoid Arthritis in a Knee?

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:

You may also experience 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:

You may also get an X-ray or, less frequently, 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 recommend other treatments first. Knee replacement surgery is usually a last resort when damage to the knee is severe and irreperable.

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, which is performed less frequently than in the past because of better medications, can relieve knee pain for up to 5 years.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 18, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "What are Knee Problems?"  "Living with Arthritis," "Rheumatoid Arthritis."

National Institutes of Health: "X-Plain Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Arthritis Foundation: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Resources."

Arthritis Today: "How is Rheumatoid Diagnosed?"

American College of Rheumatology: "Rheumatoid Arthritis,"  "Joint Surgery."

News release, FDA.

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