How does rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affect the knees?

Updated: Feb 07, 2020
  • Author: Howard R Smith, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

Affected knees may develop large effusions and abundant accumulation of synovium. Knee effusions and synovial thickening are common in RA and are easily detected during the early course of the disease. Persistent effusions may lead to inhibition of quadriceps function by spinal reflexes, resulting in subsequent atrophy.

Instability may develop after progressive loss of cartilage and weakening of ligaments; deformity may include genu valgus or varus, as well as flexion deformities. The patient’s energy expenditure for standing or walking increases substantially if there are flexion deformities of the knees.


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