Diseases of the Knee | UnityPoint Health - Meriter

Emergency Department

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Madison, WI 53715

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UnityPoint Health - Madison

Diseases of the Knee



Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease where the knee's cartilage progressively "wears and tears."

Alternative Names

  • Degenerative Arthritis
  • Osteoarthrosis
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis (develops after an injury)


You may have osteoarthritis if you have:

  • Deep, aching joint pain or stiffness
  • Pain with activity, that may persist
  • Minor injury may cause significant pain
  • Night pain
  • Limited range of motion and catching of the knee
  • Swelling or deformity in the joint
  • Grinding noises from the knee during activity


Osteoarthritis can be caused by:

  • A meniscal injury
  • Ligament tears
  • Fractures
  • Bone Spurs
  • Previous knee injury
  • Family genetics
  • Being at an unhealthy weight

Osteoarthritis is:

  • More common in women.
  • Found in one third of people over 45.
  • The most common cause of disability in patients over 65.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of knee arthritis. If the patient's osteoarthritis has just started to occur, the patient should first try non-surgical treatments.

Osteoarthritis is developed from "wear and tear" of the cartilage that covers and lubricates the ends of the bone to provide natural, comfortable movement. The damaged cartilage can cause pain and stiffness in the knee that will gradually get worse during daily activities. The patient's doctor may suggest a surgical procedure to treat the damaged cartilage. The type of procedure will depend on the areas in the knee that are affected by the damaged cartilage. When osteoarthritis is most severe, all the cartilage will be damaged or worn away and there will be bone-on-bone contact.

Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammations around the joints and can cause destruction in the cartilage, bone, and ligaments.

Alternative Names

  • Inflammatory Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Disease
  • RA


You may have rheumatoid arthritis if you have:

  • Inflammation
  • Swelling of the joint lining
  • Soft tissue destruction
  • Bone destruction
  • Knee pain, swelling, and stiffness in the morning
  • Loss of motion in the knee
  • Deterioration of multiple joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever, energy loss, and anemia
  • Rheumatoid nodules (lumps of tissue under the skin)

Non-surgical treatments may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can be caused by:

  • Genetics
  • Immune system attacking the joints
  • Virus or bacteria that triggers the disease

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease. Patients with autoimmune diseases have antibodies in their blood that target their own body tissues, where they can be associated with inflammation. In some patients with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation leads to the destruction of the cartilage, bone, and ligaments, and can cause deformity of the joints.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the knee joint tissue becomes inflamed and can destroy the joint cartilage. For most people, it generally affects both knees. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation of the tissue around other joints in the body, as well as in other organs.

Rheumatoid arthritis can be genetically linked and commonly runs in families.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is:

  • Three times more common in women as in men
  • Occurs most often in people between the ages of 40 and 60