Joint swelling

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)

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:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pseudogout
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Septic arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

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.

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:

  • Unexplained joint swelling
  • Joint swelling after an injury
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