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Joint swelling

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Swelling of a 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.

Common 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 doctor's treatment plan should be followed carefully.

Call your health care provider if

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

Also call your health provider if you have:

  • Unexplained joint swelling
  • Joint swelling after an injury

What to expect at your health care provider's office

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.

Prevention

References

Davis JM III, Moder KG, Hunder GG. History and physical examination of the musculoskeletal system. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Harris ED Jr, et al, eds. . 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 35.

Bearcroft PPW. Joint disease. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. . 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 50.

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.