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Why do my knees sound crunchy when I walk up or down stairs?

I'm a 45-year-old woman. In the last year, I've noticed that I can hear my knees crunching when I'm walking up or down stairs. It's not very loud, but I can definitely hear it when there aren't a lot of other noises in the vicinity. I can also sometimes make the noise when I'm sitting by extending my leg and bend it back down, but it's more prominent on stairs. Both knees make this noise, although the right one is crunchier. I am overweight, which I realize is probably hard on my knees, but I don't have any knee pain or other symptoms. Is this just part of aging, or something I should be concerned about?
The sound you are hearing in your knees may be crepitus. This is the sound that two bones make then they grind together. It may be a sign that the cartilage in your knee is breaking down exposing some of the bone which allows the two sides of the knee joint to rub together. Crepitus can be an early sign of developing osteoarthritis. This is a very common type of arthritis that occurs in joints that are overused. If you are overweight, then you knee joints endure greater impact which can accelerate cartilage loss. The fact that you are not having pain is a good thing, but I am worried that you may start having pain as your knees get worse. Because you do not have pain in your knees, I don't think you would benefit yet from seeing an orthopedic surgeon, although this may be a doctor you need in the future. At your stage, I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can examine you knees and determine if crepitus is present. You may need x-rays of your knees to verify that there is cartilage loss. Either way you will definitely benefit from weight loss which will slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.
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