Knee Rheumatoid Arthritis

Knee rheumatoid arthritis makes the knee joints tender, swollen and warm. Joint pain in knee RA is more severe than that in knee osteoarthritis. Knee RA can hamper a lot of daily activities like tying shoelaces, getting dressed and even walking towards the car. Timely and aggressive treatment can manage knee RA.

What Happens in Knee RA?

The knee joint consists of the ends of thigh bone and calf bone which are both covered by a thin tissue known as synovium. Synovium secretes a liquid which keeps the joint lubricated. When synovium is inflamed in knee RA, the joint is damaged and sometimes permanently destroyed.


Pain, inflammation, swelling, rigidity, warmth around the joint, flu-like symptoms, fever and fatigue are the most commonly occurring symptoms of knee RA.


Like most other types of RA, causes of knee RA are also not yet understood clearly. In general, RA occurs when body’s own immunity starts acting wrongly and attacks body’s own tissue. Genetic and environmental factors are also sometimes involved in knee RA. But still exact cause is unknown till date.


Diagnosis of knee rheumatoid arthritis is done with physical examination, talking with the patient about medical history and performing blood tests. Blood tests done for RA may show positive results for the following conditions: X-ray of joints may also be needed and also a MRI is done to get confirmation about damage or destruction of joints. A sample of joint fluid (synovial fluid) may also be withdrawn for analyzing whether it is full of inflammatory material, an indication of knee rheumatoid arthritis.


Knee Rheumatoid Arthritis Early and aggressive treatment is the best for knee RA. It includes disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which are administered along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids in low dosage. Various types of DMARDs are methotrexate, leflunomide, sulfasalazine, hdroxychloroquine, gold, azathiaprine, minocycline and cyclosporine. There is one more category of DMARDs called biologics which include adalimumab, anakinra, infliximab, etanercept, rituximab, abatarcept and tofacitinib. Icing the knee for 20 to 30 minutes per day is recommended for reducing inflammation. Over-the-counter and prescription strength NSAIDs and steroids are other common treatments for knee RA. Tropical skin creams and patches can also be applied for pain relief and they help in reducing pain by 33-57%. Exercise of legs can help increasing range of movements and flexibility and also strengthening the leg muscles.


Knee replacement surgery is the final alternative in the treatment of knee RA. Today because of advanced techniques the outcome of the surgery is successful in most cases. Another surgical procedure is synovectomy done for resolving knee rheumatoid arthritis. In this, the inflamed part of synovium (joint lining) is removed. This procedure can be done as an open surgery or by arthroscopy. Generally, arthroscopic procedure incurs fewer complications and quicker recovery than invasive procedures. Pain relief after synovectomy may sustain for up to five years.