Rheumatoid Arthritis In Knees

Medically Reviewed By : Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 


Human beings can bear pain, but some kinds of pain drain them physically as well as emotionally. One such form of pain is arthritis, which is a condition that causes the joints to swell, which results in stiff and painful joints and affects a person’s daily activities. It is divided into two types, namely, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints wherein the tissues break down over time as people age, while rheumatoid arthritis is a condition wherein the body’s immune system attacks a healthy tissue of the body. It generally affects the small joints of the body, like the fingers, wrists, and ankles. It may also occur in larger joints like the elbows, knees, shoulders, and hips. In some cases, rheumatoid arthritis may affect other vital body parts like the eyes, lungs, blood vessels, heart, and skin. Rheumatoid arthritis in the knees is one of the most frequent types of arthritis that are seen these days. As discussed above, it affects knees and causes a temporary, and in rare cases permanent disability in carrying out daily activities. It is essential that your healthcare provider evaluates your symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and plans a proper line of treatment for you.
rheumatoid arthritis in knees

The anatomical structure of the knee:

The knee is the largest and the strongest joint in our body. It connects your thigh bone to your shin bone. It consists of cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and nerves. It is composed of three bones, namely the femur – lower bone), the tibia (upper bone), and the patella (kneecap). These three bones together form a joint and are protected by a smooth and slippery substance to cushion the bones. A thin, fibrous structure called the meniscus is present between the surfaces of joints and acts as a shock absorber. Since a knee joint is made up of three bones, it is known as a synovial joint. A synovial joint moves freely as the bone has a cavity wherein the other bone fits. It has a synovial membrane filled with a fluid that protects and lubricates the joint.

How does rheumatoid arthritis affect your knees?

To put it simply, rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that is caused by the immune system, which is the body’s defense mechanism, attacks its tissues, cartilage, and joints and softens the bones. It attacks the lining of the joints, called the synovium, and causes it to swell. Inflammation further destroys the bone and the cartilage, a bone-like structure that joins the bones. This destruction of the bone and cartilage is permanent and cannot be repaired. The structures that hold the bones weaken and affect the joint’s ability to function.

When one acquires rheumatoid arthritis in the knees, the person may have difficulty carrying out daily activities like walking, running, or climbing stairs. It may cause the person to suffer from unbearable pain. If the inflammation progresses, it damages the joint resulting in permanent disability.

What causes rheumatoid arthritis in the knees?

It may be caused either by genetic factors or by environmental factors. Whenever a germ invades our body, our immune system gets activated and fights the infection by causing inflammation and redness. However, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, there is no real invader, but our defense mechanism still fights our body itself, causing the inner lining of the joints to swell and destroy the bones, causing permanent damage to the knees and affecting functionality.

Environmental Factors:

If you have rheumatoid arthritis in your knees due to an environmental factor, a foreign body may enter your body and trigger your immune system to make antibodies causing swollen and painful joints. 

Genetic Factors:

Human DNA consists of a complex gene called ‘Human leukocyte antigen’ abbreviated as HLA. It produces variations like HLA-DRB 1 which are a risk factor for causing rheumatoid arthritis. The proteins produced by HLA-DRB 1 bind to proteins produced by HLA-DRA forming a complex that triggers the body’s immune system.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis in knees

Symptoms of the patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in knees include:

Risk factors of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Several genetic and environmental factors cause rheumatoid arthritis. Below mentioned are some of the common factors that lead to rheumatoid arthritis in knees.

Some factors associated with rheumatoid arthritis in knees are;

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis in knees:

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in knees totally depends on the symptoms and the severity the patient has.


Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the joints in the body to swell and affects one’s daily activities like walking or climbing stairs. Women are at greater risk than men since when a woman hits menopause her oestrogen levels decrease. This hormone fights any type of inflammation in the body. Studies have revealed that hormone replacement therapy has a positive impact on rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, people having a family history of rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk of developing this condition. 

Knees are one of the joints that are affected by this disease, and the inflammation leads to permanent destruction of the bone. The knee is the biggest joint found in the human body. It is a part of the body that serves as a connecting point between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia).

One may acquire rheumatoid arthritis due to environmental or genetic factors. It is recommended to see your doctor if you present with symptoms like stiffness, pain, or swelling in your joints. Your healthcare provider may evaluate you for the symptoms and then choose the correct rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan for knees. There are certain medications, like essential disease-modifying drugs, that are prescribed by Rheumatologists to treat this disease. Your doctor may sometimes give you steroid shots, NSAIDs or targeted DMARDs. These drugs reduce the pain and inflammation. Sometimes you may be referred to an occupational or a physical therapist who will teach you a few stretches to maintain the flexibility of your joints. However, it is equally important that you practice self-management strategies like being active and managing your weight, as they help you manage the unbearable pain caused by arthritis.