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:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Septic arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
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
Joint X-rays can also be helpful in monitoring the progression of rheumatoid disease and joint damage over time.
RA Diagnostic Test: Joint X-rays
Joint X-rays may be normal or only show swelling of soft tissues early in the disease. As the disease progresses, X-rays can show bony erosions typical of rheumatoid arthritis in the joints. Joint X-rays can also be helpful in monitoring the progression of disease and joint damage over time. Bone scanning, a radioactive test procedure, and MRI scanning can demonstrate inflamed or eroded joints.
The first step in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is a meeting between the doctor and the patient.
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?
The first step in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is a meeting between the doctor and patient. A doctor with special training in arthritis and related diseases is called a rheumatologist. The doctor reviews the history of symptoms, examines the joints for inflammation and deformity, the skin for rheumatoid nodules, and other parts of the body for inflammation. Certain blood and X-ray tests are often obtained. The diagnosis will be based on the pattern of symptoms, the distribution of the inflamed joints, and the blood and X-ray findings. Several visits may be necessary before the doctor can be certain of the diagnosis. The distribution of joint inflammation is important to the doctor in making a diagnosis. In rheumatoid arthritis, the small joints of the hands, wrists, feet, and knees are typically inflamed in a symmetrical distribution (affecting both sides of the body). When only one or two joints are inflamed, the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis becomes more difficult. The doctor may then perform other tests which ‘are described on the next slides.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis come and go, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation.
Remission, Relapse, and Flares
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis come and go, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation. When body tissues are inflamed, the disease is active. When tissue inflammation subsides, the disease is inactive (in remission). Remissions can occur spontaneously or with treatment and can last weeks, months, or years. During remissions, symptoms of the disease disappear and patients generally feel well. When the disease becomes active again (relapse), symptoms return. The return of disease activity and symptoms is called a flare. The course of rheumatoid arthritis varies from patient to patient, and periods of flares and remissions are typical.
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is a very active area of worldwide research.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. Even though infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi have long been suspected, none has been proven as the cause. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is a very active area of worldwide research. Some scientists believe that the tendency to develop rheumatoid arthritis may be genetically inherited. It is suspected that certain infections or factors in the environment might trigger the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues in susceptible individuals, resulting in inflammation in various organs of the body including the joints. Environmental factors also seem to play some role in causing rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, scientists have reported that smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is arthritis that causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks in a child 16 years of age or younger.
What Is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is arthritis that causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks in a child 16 years of age or younger. It affects approximately 50,000 children in the United States. Inflammation causes redness, swelling, warmth, and soreness in the joints, although many children with JRA do not complain of joint pain. Any joint can be affected, and inflammation may limit the mobility of affected joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately 1.3 million people in the United States, with women developing the condition three times more often than men.
Who Is at Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common rheumatic disease, affecting approximately 1.3 million people in the United States, according to current census data. The disease is three times more common in women as in men. It afflicts people of all races equally. The disease can begin at any age, but it most often starts after age 40 and before 60. In some families, multiple members can be affected, suggesting a genetic basis for the disorder.