The incidence of knee arthritis is rising in young people and researchers are trying to find out why.
Osteoarthritis is thought of as a disease of the elderly but although more common with advancing age, young people can also feel the pain of arthritis.
It has been known for many years that fracturing a bone through the joint surface leads to the early onset of osteoarthritis. Now it is being suggested that other injuries such as rupturing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) can also greatly increase the risk. A significant impact, even one insufficient to fracture the bone, can cause damage to the articular cartilage. It has been estimated that around half of those rupturing their ACL will develop early onset osteoarthritis within 5 - 10 years.
Another reason for early arthritis is the growing rate of obesity in society. The knees are particularly sensitive to the increased load caused by gaining weight. The mechanical effect of obesity has been described as the chronic overloading of weight bearing joints that results in an increased rate of cartilage wear.
Osteoarthritis is a serious condition and surgeons are reluctant to replace joints in young people due to the replacements limited lifespan. Young people need to work at all of the non-surgical treatment options to reduce their pain until they are older. Weight loss, muscular strengthening, medication and off-loading braces are all options for the younger arthritic knee.
For more on the latest research into early onset osteoarthritis, click here.