Joint Swelling: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

joint swelling

Joints are the structures that connect 2 or more bones in your body. They’re found in your feet, ankles, knees, hips, arms, and many other parts of your body. Joints are surrounded and cushioned by soft tissues. Swelling happens when fluid accumulates in these tissues. Discomfort, stiffness, or both might accompany joint swelling. You may also observe that the affected joint appears larger than regular or irregularly shaped. Joint swelling can be a sign of a chronic condition, such as arthritis, or an injury that requires medical attention, such as a dislocation.

What Causes Joint Swelling?

Among the most frequent causes of joint swelling is arthritis. Some of the most common kinds of arthritis include:

  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • gout
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • septic arthritis

Joint swelling can likewise result from other chronic conditions, illnesses, or acute injuries.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It’s brought on by the natural degeneration of joint cartilage with time.

When the cartilage surrounding your joint wears away, the bones rub up against each other. This can lead to joint swelling, pain, and stiffness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Roughly 1.5 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to the Arthritis Structure. This inflammatory type of arthritis is also an autoimmune condition– a type of condition in which your body assaults its own healthy tissues.

If you have RA, your immune system attacks the membranes that line your joints, triggering fluid to develop and your joints to swell. It can damage the cartilage, tendons, and ligaments in your joints.


In gout, a boost of uric acid in your blood can result in the deposit of uric acid crystals in your joints, causing joint swelling and discomfort. This uncomfortable condition can be severe or chronic.

Gout impacts about 6 million men and 2 million women in the United States, or about 4 percent of American grownups, reports the Arthritis Foundation.

Uric acid is a by-product that your body creates when breaking down certain compounds in food. It typically dissolves in your blood and exits your body through urination.

When it isn’t excreted appropriately, it can develop in your joints, where it forms needle-like crystals. This triggers the signs of gout, including joint swelling.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a kind of arthritis that can accompany the skin condition psoriasis.

The Arthritis Structure estimates that about 30 percent of individuals with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis. It’s an autoimmune condition, in which your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your joints and skin. This leads to swelling, causing joint swelling, discomfort, and stiffness.

Septic Arthritis

Joint swelling can also result from an infection in your joints, brought on by bacteria, infections, or fungi. This kind of joint swelling is called septic arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most typical cause of septic arthritis is infection by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Information verified by the team.

Septic arthritis can be chronic or severe. Chronic septic arthritis is unusual.

Other Causes

Numerous other kinds of arthritis can cause your joints to swell, as can other health conditions.

Examples include:

  • injuries, such as bone fractures, dislocations, torn ligaments, and torn tendons
  • ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic illness that causes joint swelling
  • systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), an autoimmune condition that triggers swelling
  • hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
  • sarcoidosis, a disease in which clusters of inflammatory cells collect in your body.
  • rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disease that results from unattended strep throat or scarlet fever.
  • tendinitis, swelling of a tendon.

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

Make a visit with your doctor if you experience joint swelling that:

  • happened after a major injury or triggers your joint to look disfigured.
  • has no apparent cause.
  • is accompanied by serious discomfort.
  • is accompanied by a fever.
  • does not decrease or ends up being more severe.
  • interferes with your daily life.

How Is the Cause of Joint Swelling Diagnosed?

When you come to your doctor’s office, they’ll likely start by asking you questions about your medical history and signs. For instance, they may ask:

  • when your joint swelling started.
  • where the swelling has actually occurred.
  • how serious the swelling has been.
  • if anything seems to make the swelling much better or worse.
  • if you have any other signs in addition to joint swelling.

Your doctor will also wish to examine the afflicted joints. They might purchase several tests to assist figure out the cause of the swelling. For example, they may carry out:

  • blood tests.
  • imaging tests, such as X-rays.
  • joint goal, a test in which your doctor will used a needle to draw a small sample of fluid from the impacted joint to be evaluated in a laboratory.

How Is Joint Swelling Treated?

Your doctor’s recommended treatment strategy will depend upon the underlying cause of your signs.

If your joint swelling took place following an injury, simple at-home treatments can assist relieve your symptoms. Apply ice or a cold pack, covered in a cloth, to the affected joint for approximately 10 minutes at a time to reduce the swelling.

Apply compression to the joint using an elastic bandage or wrap. Raise the joint when you’re resting, ideally to a point higher than your heart. Think about taking over-the-counter discomfort medications to eliminate pain.

Your doctor may also encourage you to avoid moving or putting weight on the hurt joint for a time period. Ask how long you need to wait before you start utilizing it once again.

While it’s important to give your body time to heal, incapacitating the joint for too long can cause your muscle strength and series of movement to deteriorate.

If you’re detected with a chronic condition, such as osteoarthritis or lupus, follow your doctor’s suggested treatment plan. They might advise medications, physical treatment, or other treatments to help ease your signs and maintain the health of your joint.


Joint swelling is a symptom of numerous conditions, the most common of which is arthritis. Your joint may likewise feel uncomfortable and stiff or appear larger than usual.

In many cases, the cause of the swelling may be obvious, such as if you just recently injured the joint. Nevertheless, if the cause isn’t apparent, the swelling is severe, or doesn’t subside, set up an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Your healthcare provider can supply you with more details about your particular medical diagnosis, treatment choices, and long-term outlook.

Ali Gadimov
Health Recovery Tips