Swollen joints refers to the enlargement of the joints, usually as a result of an inflammatory process or injury to the joint or to surrounding structures. Joint swelling may be accompanied by other symptoms, including
- warmth, and
- apparent loss of range of motion of the joint.
Depending upon the exact cause, swollen joints may occur singly, or multiple joints in the body may be involved at one time. The many arthritis conditions are a common cause of swollen joints.
Other causes of swollen joints
- Bone Tumor
- Cartilage Tear
- Soft Tissue Tumors
- Synovial Sarcoma
- Trauma or Injury
Causes of Swollen Joints
16 Early Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Early RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree.
Ankle Pain (Tendinitis)
Ankle pain is commonly due to a sprain or tendinitis. The severity of ankle sprains ranges from mild (which can resolve within 24 hours) to severe (which can require surgical repair). Tendinitis of the ankle can be caused by trauma or inflammation.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation of the spine. The tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis is genetically inherited. Treatment incorporates medications, physical therapy, and exercise.
Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
A broken bone is a fracture. There are different types of fractures, such as: compressed, open, stress, greenstick, spiral, vertebral compression, compound, and comminuted. Symptoms of a broken bone include pain at the site of injury, swelling, and bruising around the area of injury. Treatment of a fracture depends on the type and location of the injury.
A bursa is a fluid-filled sac found in the joints that cushions them. Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae, most commonly caused by repetitive motion. Bursitis can be caused by a bacterial infection and should be treated with antibiotics. Doctors also recommend icing and resting the joint.
Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage where the ribs attach to the sternum. Tietze syndrome affects the same region of the chest and causes inflammation, tenderness, and swelling. Anti-inflammatory medications, rest, physical therapy, and cortisone injections are suitable methods of treatment for both costochondritis and Tietze syndrome.
An elbow dislocation occurs when the radius and/or ulna becomes displaced from the humerus. Typically, falls cause dislocated elbows. Signs and symptoms include pain, visible deformity, an audible pop, swelling, and an inability to move the elbow. Treatment may incorporate pain medications, reduction of the elbow joint, and wearing an elbow brace to protect the joint as it heals.
A hip dislocation may occur due to an athletic injury or a motor vehicle accident. Joint deformity, pain, an inability to move the hip, and muscle spasms are signs and symptoms of a dislocated hip. Treatment may involve traction, arthroscopic surgery, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
A dislocation is an injury that forces bones out of their normal position. Symptoms and signs of dislocated fingers include pain, deformity, and swelling and an inability to move the finger. Treatment involves reducing the joint to move the bones back to their normal position and then splinting the joint to protect it while it heals.
Fungal arthritis is inflammation of a joint by a fungus that has invaded the body and is growing in the normally sterile joint. Fungal arthritis symptoms and signs include pain, redness, loss of range of motion, and swelling. Fungal arthritis treatment includes antibiotics, adequate drainage of the joint, and sometimes surgery.
Buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint causes gouty arthritis. Symptoms and signs include joint pain, swelling, heat, and redness, typically of a single joint. Gout may be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication.
Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP or anaphylactoid purpura), a type of blood vessel inflammation, results in rash, arthritis, and occasional abdominal cramping. HSP often resolves on its own. Joint pain may be treated with anti-inflammatory and cortisone medications.
Is Lyme Disease Contagious?
Lyme disease may be transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tick. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes the disease and is passed to humans during a tick's blood meal. Lyme disease does not spread from person to person.
Knee injuries, especially meniscus tears, are common in contact sports. Symptoms and signs of a torn meniscus include knee pain, swelling, a popping sound, and difficulty bending the leg. Treatment may involve resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the knee, in addition to wearing a knee brace, taking anti-inflammatory medications, and stretching the knee.
Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE)
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of body tissues caused by autoimmune disease. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. When only the skin is involved, the condition is called discoid lupus. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis can be caused by aging, heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis (PVNS)
Pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS) is unusual growth of the tissue that lines the tendons in the body (synovium) and joints. PVNS causes hitching of the joint, loss of range of movement, and pain. Diagnosis may incorporate X-rays, MRI, CT scan, and joint aspiration. Treatment involves surgery and radiation if a patient can't have surgery.
Plant Thorn Synovitis
Plant thorn synovitis (plant thorn arthritis) is joint inflammation caused by a thorn puncturing the joint and leaving residual plant matter in the joint. Symptoms and signs include swelling, reddish discoloration, loss of range of motion, pain, tenderness, and stiffness. Treatment involves a surgical procedure called a synovectomy with joint lavage to remove the affected joint lining tissue and thorn fragments.
Pseudogout, a form of arthritis, results when deposits of crystals collect in and around the joints. Symptoms of pseudogout include pain, stiffness, warmth, and joint swelling of the knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, and/or wrists. Treatment for pseudogout aims to decrease inflammation through the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, and rest.
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that causes skin and joint inflammation. Symptoms and signs include painful, stiff, and swollen joints, tendinitis, and organ inflammation. Treatment involves anti-inflammatory medications and exercise.
Reactive arthritis is a chronic, systemic rheumatic disease characterized by three conditions, including conjunctivitis, joint inflammation, and genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal system inflammation. Inflammation leads to pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and stiffness of the affected joints. Non-joint areas may experience irritation and pain. Treatment for reactive arthritis depends on which area of the body is affected. Joint inflammation is treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following. Anemia Both sides of the body affected (symmetric) Depression Fatigue Fever Joint deformity Joint pain Joint redness Joint stiffness Joint swelling Joint tenderness Joint warmth Limping Loss of joint function Loss of joint range of motion Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Fibromyalgia
Though rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia have similar symptoms, RA is an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome. RA symptoms include joint redness, swelling, and pain that lasts more than six weeks. Fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread pain, tingling feet or hands, depression, and bowel irritability. Home remedies for both include stress reduction, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
Rheumatology is the study of rheumatic diseases and conditions. Rheumatologists are internal medicine physicians who treat these illnesses, in particular arthritis.
SAPHO syndrome is a chronic disorder that involves the skin, bone, and joints. SAPHO syndrome is an eponym for the combination of synovitis, acne, pustulosis, hyperostosis, and osteitis. SAPHO syndrome is related to arthritic conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and reactive arthritis. Treatment is directed toward the individual symptoms that are present, and includes medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and cortisone medications.
Septic arthritis, or infectious arthritis, is infection of one or more joints by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Symptoms and signs of septic arthritis include fever, joint pain, chills, swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffness. Treatment involves antibiotics and the drainage of the infected joint.
Sprains and Strains
An injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive movements or a single stressful incident. Symptoms and signs include pain and swelling. Though treatment depends upon the extent and location of the injury, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are key elements of treatment.
Still's disease (systemic-onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) is a disorder characterized by inflammation with high fever spikes, fatigue, salmon-colored rash, and/or arthritis. Though there have been several theories regarding the cause(s) of Still's disease, the cause is not yet known. Many symptoms of Still's disease are often treatable with anti-inflammatory drugs.
A torn meniscus (knee cartilage) may be caused by suddenly stopping, sharply twisting, or deep squatting or kneeling when lifting heavy weight. Symptoms of a meniscal tear include pain with running or walking long distances, popping when climbing stairs, a giving way sensation, locking, or swelling. Treatment depends upon the severity, location, and underlying disease of the knee joint.
Examples of Medications for Swollen Joints
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- apremilast (Otezla)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- Over-the-Counter Products