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Learn How Joint Effusion is Formed and How it is Treated


Joint Effusion is more commonly known as “Water on the Knee” as it mostly affects knee joints. In layman’s terms, it’s a buildup of fluid in your joint space. The most common cause of Joint Effusion is Arthritis.

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Arthritis actually affects a massive amount of people. Over 50 million adults are diagnosed with Arthritis[1] and it is the number 1 cause of disability in the USA. Since so many people suffer from Arthritis and are at high risk of getting Joint Effusion, we think it’s important you know all you can about it.

So let’s take a proper look at everything you need to know about joint effusion.

What is Joint Effusion?

Every single one of us has fluid in our joints. It’s our body’s way of lubricating your joints so you can move around easily. However Joint Effusion is when there is too much fluid building up in the joints.

Joint Effusion can be caused by a number of different things. The cause of Joint Effusion impacts how your doctor will treat it so bare that in mind when you make your appointment.

What Causes Joint Effusion?

Causes Joint Effusion

Joint Effusion can be caused by a number of reasons:

  • Overusing the joint and causing repetitive injury from sports or household tasks.
  • Tearing ligaments or cartilage
  • Bacterial infection within the joint
  • Burstitis (where the Bursa Sac fills with too much fluid).
  • Breaking a bone
  • Gout or pseudogout
  • Cysts or tumors in the joint
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis and/or Osteoarthritis

What are the Symptoms of Joint Effusion?

Symptoms of Joint Effusion

Depending on the cause of your Joint Effusion, you will likely experience different symptoms. For example, if you suffer from Osteoarthritis you’ll likely feel pain when your knee takes your weight.

Going from sitting to standing for example, and you’ll find that the pain goes away with relaxation.

If you have Joint Effusion from an injury, you’ll find there may be bruising and the pain may be too much to bare when standing. You’ll likely not be able to stand or walk at all.

Regardless of the cause of your Joint Effusion, you’ll probably notice that your knee becomes swollen. It may become larger than your other knee.

It may become difficult to bend your knee and you may notice Redness, heat and other signs of inflammation.

If Joint Effusion is left untreated, in severe cases you could contract an infection in the joints. Make sure you see a doctor ASAP if you get any of these symptoms.

Are you at Risk of Joint Effusion?

Risk of Joint Effusion

In reality, everyone is at risk of Joint Effusion. Anyone can put their knee joint under stress and cause Joint Effusion. However some are more at risk than others. These high-risk groups include:

  • Older people – Your risk grows as you get older.
  • People who regularly play sports that put stress on your joints such as Soccer, Basketball and Wrestling.
  • People who work jobs that include a lot of kneeling such as roof layers, gardeners, carpet fitters etc.
  • People who are overweight or obese – Carrying extra weight puts more stress on your joints.
  • People with Arthritis and other health conditions that affect joints.

When do you need to see a Doctor?

Regular knee pain will go away after you’ve spent some time resting, applying ice and keeping the knee elevated. But how do you know when the pain is no longer normal and you should see a doctor?

  • You know you’ve sustained a serious injury to your knee.
  • You can’t bend your knee without pain.
  • You can’t stand or walk for more than a few minutes without extreme pain.
  • Your knee is warm, red and significantly larger than the other.
  • If the tenderness and pain in your knee does not go after a few days.

How is Joint Effusion Diagnosed?

Joint Effusion Diagnosed

How is will your doctor diagnose you with Joint Effusion? Well, first of all, your doctor will take a look at your medical history.

They will have a look for any previous knee or joint conditions, including arthritis. It would also be a wise idea to share with your doctor if you have hobbies or a job that puts stress on your joints.

Your doctor will do a physical exam first. They will check your knee and test your range of motion. If the diagnosis is unclear, a fluid sample will be taken from your knee.

The sample is taken with a long, fine needle that is inserted into the joint space and the fluid will be withdrawn.

The extracted fluid will be tested for a number of things including certain bacteria that causes infection and crystals, protein and glucose that could indicate Gout.

The fluid will also be tested for blood cells that may indicate injury to the knee. The removal of fluid from the knee can often help with the pressure and pain that is caused by it.

Lastly, your doctor may send you off for an imaging test. You could be sent for an MRI, CT Scan, Ultrasound or X-ray to help determine the cause.

How is Joint Effusion Treated?

Joint Effusion Treated

The treatment will heavily rely on the results of your diagnosis. For example, depending on what the results of the fluid tests are. Your treatment could be any one of the following:

  • Antibiotics for any infection
  • Anti-Inflammatories and other pain medication.
  • Oral Corticosteroids
  • Corticosteroids that are injected directly into the joint.
  • Joint aspiration to relieve pressure in the joint.
  • Physiotherapy to build the strength of the supportive muscles and improve flexibility.
  • Arthroscopy

If your knee doesn’t respond well to treatment, removal of the Bursa Sack may be needed or even knee replacement surgery for severe cases.


Joint Effusion is a pretty serious condition that can be caused by a number of different things. The key thing to take away from this is that you need to be protecting your joints. Especially if you do anything strenuous for work or hobbies such as gardening or sports.

Make sure that you take special care to protect your joints. Invest in a knee brace and try to maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting extra stress on your knees. And go to your doctor straight away if you notice any of the symptoms above.

Image Credits
Feature Image- Shutterstock.com
In- Post Image- Shutterstock.com

Contributor : Janice (Joint Health Magazine)

Janice Carson is a freelance journalist who specializes in Joint health issues and provides treatments and solutions to the sufferers. She is having medical writing experience of many years. She is contributing her work to jointhealthmagazine.com.

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