What is joint swelling?

Joint swelling, or joint effusion, is the enlargement of one or more of your joints due to an increase in the amount of fluid in the joint. Joint swelling may be caused by injury, such as a broken bone, or by an underlying medical condition or disease, such as arthritis or an infection. The fluid can be blood, pus, or a clear exudate.

Joint Problems Spotlight

Besides injury, arthritis is a common cause of joint swelling. Arthritis most commonly affects joints that undergo constant repetitive movements, such as the hips, knees or fingers, though it may be present in any joint. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms of arthritis, but there are many different types of arthritis. Approximately 50 million adults in the United States have some form of arthritis (Source: CDC).

Anyone may experience joint swelling, although older people are more prone to developing joint swelling due to an increased likelihood of arthritis and a general deterioration of the tendons and ligaments around the joints. Additionally, persons who are overweight, repetitively use their joints in strenuous activities, or have previously experienced a joint injury are more likely to develop joint swelling.

While you should always consult with a health care professional when you experience joint swelling, swollen joints that result from minor injuries, such as overuse or sprains, may be effectively treated with rest and the application of ice to the swollen joint.

Joint swelling may be an indication of a serious injury or an underlying medical condition and you should always consult with a medical professional if you experience joint swelling. However, if you experience joint swelling with other serious symptoms, including a fever, unexplained swelling or pain, persistent pain, loss of mobility in your joint, redness or warmth around the joint, or unexplained weight loss, seek prompt medical care.


What other symptoms might occur with joint swelling?

Joint swelling may accompany other symptoms, which can vary depending on the underlying injury, disease, disorder or condition.

Common symptoms that may occur along with joint swelling

Joint swelling may be accompanied by other symptoms including:


What causes joint swelling?

Joint swelling is commonly caused by injuries to the joint, including overuse or sprains, or by arthritis. However, there are a number of other underlying conditions and diseases that may also cause joint swelling.

Causes of joint swelling

Joint swelling may be caused by many events or conditions including:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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