Joint swelling

Definition

Joint swelling is the buildup of fluid in the soft tissue surrounding the joint.

Considerations

Joint swelling may occur along with joint pain. The swelling may cause the joint to appear larger or abnormally shaped.

Joint swelling can cause pain or stiffness. After an injury, swelling of the joint may mean you have a broken bone or a tear in the muscle tendon or ligament.

Many different types of arthritis may cause swelling, redness, or warmth around the joint.

An infection in the joint can cause swelling, pain, and fever.

Causes

Joint swelling may be caused many different things, including:

Home Care

If the joint swelling occurs after an injury, apply ice packs to reduce pain and swelling. Raise the swollen joint so that it is higher than your heart, if possible. For example, if your ankle is swollen, lay down with pillows comfortably placed underneath your foot so that your ankle and leg is slightly raised.

For those with arthritis, your health care provider's treatment plan should be followed carefully.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider immediately if you have joint pain and swelling with a fever.

Also call your health provider if you have:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will obtain your medical history and will perform a physical examination. The joint will be closely examined. You will be asked questions about your joint swelling, such as:

Location:

Time pattern:

Quality:

Aggravating factors:

Relieving factors:

Other:

Tests to diagnose the cause of joint swelling may include:

Physical therapy for muscle and joint rehabilitation may be recommended.


Review Date: 8/14/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.