Joint swelling is the buildup of fluid in the soft tissue surrounding the joint.
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.
Joint swelling may be caused many different things, including:
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.
Call your health care provider immediately if you have joint pain and swelling with a fever.
Also call your health provider if you have:
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:
Tests to diagnose the cause of joint swelling may include:
Physical therapy for muscle and joint rehabilitation may be recommended.
Swelling of a joint
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Lane NE, Schnitzer TJ. Osteoarthritis. In: Goldman L, Shafer AI, eds. Cecil's Medicine 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 270.
Bearcroft PPW. Joint disease. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger and Allison's Diagnostic Radiology 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 50.
Updated 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.
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