Swollen Joints: Common Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


As a disease, arthritis is more complicated and varied than most people imagine. it can come in different forms and affect people in different ways. But the common thread through most forms of arthritis? inflammation and stiffness of the joints.

Swelling may occur for two key reasons. Either the lining of the joint, known as the synovium, swells (synovitis) or the synovial fluid increases in volume (an effusion).

it is an active process: inflammatory cells (mainly white cells) and more blood enter the joint, while many inflammatory molecules, such as small proteins (peptides) are released into the soft tissues around the joint.

The increased blood flow makes the joint swell and feels warm. The inflammatory materials cause joint fluid to collect in and around the joint, which adds to the swelling. The type of joint swelling can vary depending on the type of arthritis you have.

inflamed joints can feel an especially stiff first thing in the morning. How long it lasts is important: an hour or more is suggestive of inflammatory arthritis.

Defining morning stiffness is hard, although people with arthritis describe it as an ache combined with difficulty moving. Stiffness following exercise is usually a feature of osteoarthritis; it is a sign that the joints are starting to fail.

People also feel stiff when they rest, such as sitting down after a walk or relaxing in the evening. The joints are sometimes said to “gel,” a term reminiscent of how gelatin sets – a gradual process of firming up. Joint stiffness may occur with or without joint pain.

Stiffness can affect any joint– the fingers and hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, feet, shoulders, hips, and even the jaw.

What Are The Causes Of Swollen Joint

Causes of  Swollen Joint
Ankylosing Spondylitis: it is a type of arthritis caused by chronic inflammation of the spine. The inflammation causes the vertebrae to fuse together (ankylosis) resulting in stiffness and loss of mobility of the spine.

Pain and stiffness in the spine region including the neck and back are the main symptoms of the disease. The condition is generally inherited affecting all age groups and occurring in both men and women, though it is more common in men.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): This autoimmune disease causes inflammation of the joints. Symptoms include swollen and painful joints, fatigue, fever, loss of joint function, joint stiffness, redness, warmth, and even deformity. Unfortunately, there is no cure for RA.

Osteoarthritis: Also called degenerative arthritis, this is a type of arthritis which causes joint inflammation due to wearing down of cartilage. The wear and tear of cartilage can occur because of aging or injury.

You can suspect osteoarthritis if you experience pain after repetitive use of the affected joint. Although it has no known cause, it has generally been found to affect men over 45 years of age and women over 55 years of age.


Gout: Gout is an inflammation that begins suddenly and usually affects one joint. it occurs when there is a buildup of uric acid in the joint. Uric acid is a normal byproduct of purine (protein) break down.

A gout attack can be triggered by red meat, seafood, sweetened beverages and alcohol as they are high in purines.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine suggested that episodic alcohol consumption, whether beer, li?uor, or wine, was associated with an increased risk of recurrent gout attacks even with moderate amounts.

Even vegetables like mushroom, pea, spinach, cauliflower and lentils and kidney beans are moderately rich in purines. Dehydration is also a big trigger for gout. (Read: 5 warning symptoms of gout that you should know)

Psoriatic Arthritis: it is a chronic disease characterized by inflammation of the skin (psoriasis) followed by inflammation of the joints (inflammatory arthritis).

Psoriatic arthritis usually affects people with psoriasis in the age group of 40 to 50 years. Sometimes arthritis can occur earlier and psoriasis develops later, which makes it difficult to make a diagnosis.

Bursitis: Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. Bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions the areas of friction between the two tissues, and reduces friction between the moving parts of the body – for example, the area around the joints of the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee.

Bursitis can be caused by trauma to the affected area through repetitive motions, such as when you repetitively kneel on the hard surface to scrub the floor you may get pre-patellar bursitis or the bursitis of the knee. infection or pre-existing rheumatoid conditions can also cause bursitis.

Lupus: Lupus is another autoimmune disease where your body produces abnormal antibodies called autoantibodies in the blood. These tissues can attack different parts of the body such as skin, joints, heart, lungs, and kidneys.

When it affects just the skin you may notice flare-ups or rashes. However, if the internal organs are involved lupus is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and it can cause serious trouble.

Symptoms include fever, headache, swollen and painful joints, swelling in hands, feet, legs, or under the eyes, and extreme fatigue. (Read: Lupus — 8 facts you ought to know about this autoimmune disease)

Deer Tick

Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. it can affect any organ of the body including the brain and the nervous system.

Early symptoms include flu-like illness that could go away without treatment and a bulls-eye rash darker around the edges (only 10 percent of affected people show this rash).

Later symptoms include a headache, swollen and painful joints, light or sound sensitivity, cognitive impairment, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, shortness of breath, shooting pain, and depression or mood swings.

Synovial Sarcoma: it is one of the most common soft tissue cancer in adolescents and young adults. The tumor occurs near a joint, not in the joint, especially in the knees and ankles.

Usually, there are no signs and symptoms in the early stages. Later symptoms include pain and swollen joints and a noticeable painful lump.

Torn Meniscus: Meniscus is the cartilage of the knee joint that protects the knee from the stresses placed on it due to walking, running, climbing or bending.

Sometimes a forceful twisting or rotation of the knee can cause the meniscus to tear. A torn meniscus causes a popping sensation, swelling or stiffness in the knee, a block in the movement of the affected knee.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Joint Swelling

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The symptoms of joint pain and swelling can vary from person to person, and depend on which joints are affected. Whatever the cause, joint pain and swelling can be very uncomfortable and can make it difficult to move the affected joints.

in some cases, this can lead to problems moving around, completing daily activities (such as washing and dressing), and for some people, working.

Joint pain and swelling can affect more than one joint at a time, and the most common joints to be affected by pain and swelling include:

  • elbows
  • Wrists
  • shoulders
  • The Base Of The spine
  • Knuckles
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Ankles.

Joint pain and swelling may be better or worse at different times of the day. For example, you may find that your joint pain and swelling is a worst first thing in the morning. Pain and swelling in the joints can also lead to tiredness and fatigue.

in some cases, swelling may cause affected joints to increase in size or appear to be an odd shape.

Anyone who experiences pain and swelling in one or more joints should discuss this with their doctor. if you have chronic joint pain and swelling, your doctor will be able to assess your situation.

What Are The Treatment Of Swollen Joints

Not all swollen joints are treated the same way. Treatment for swollen joints depends on the problem or diagnosis.

For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAiDs) are used in treating swollen joints with OA. NSAiDs may also be used to treat swollen joints from an injury. Along with NSAiDs, applications of moist heat or ice can help ease swollen joints and pain.

Steroid medications taken orally for a short period of time may be effective in reducing painful, swollen joints. Steroids block the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.

injecting an anti-inflammatory drug such as a steroid into a joint is another treatment method. The injection goes directly into the swollen joint — the source of inflammation and pain. injections usually give the patient temporary but rapid relief of joint swelling and pain. Fluid removal is part of this procedure in most circumstances.

For inflammatory types of arthritis such as RA, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, treatment may include NSAiDs, steroid medications, and the newer types of drugs that affect the immune system.

These include the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologic agents such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors, and enzyme inhibitors which can block the proteins that cause. inflammation.

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Acute gout can be treated with a medicine called colchicine. This prescription drug eases swollen joints, pain, and inflammation caused by the crystal deposits in the joint. NSAiDs may also help decrease pain and swelling. Sometimes, stronger painkillers are needed.

Swollen joints and pain from infectious arthritis are treated with antibiotics to stop the infection. Sometimes, surgery may be needed to allow drainage of infected material.

Read More: Sacroiliac Joint – Things You Must Know About Sacroiliac Joint


Swollen joints as such may not be life threatening. But do see a doctor if there is unexplained swelling of joints or if you have joint swelling after an injury. Your doctor will also want to address the underlying injury or problem that’s actually causing the swelling.

This may be done by using casts, braces, or orthotics (prescription shoe inserts) to provide support to the foot and prevent further injury.

Physical therapy might be used to help strengthen your muscles. in some cases, surgery is necessary to reduce swelling and reestablish the functionality of the joint, or your foot surgeon may opt to fuse the joint to reduce pain and swelling.

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