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The structure of a joint
The structure of a joint


Definition:

Joint swelling is the build up of fluid in the soft tissue surrounding the joint.



Alternative Names:

Swelling of a joint



Considerations:

Joint swelling may occur along with joint pain .



Common Causes:

Joint swelling may be caused many different things, including:



Home Care:

For unexplained soft tissue joint swelling, contact your health care provider. Follow prescribed therapy to treat the underlying cause.



Call your health care provider if:

Call your health care provider if any of the following occurs:

  • Severe, unexplained joint pain
  • Severe, unexplained stiffness or swelling, especially if accompanied by other unexplained symptoms


What to expect at your health care provider's office:

Your health care provider will obtain your medical history and will perform a physical examination . The joint(s) will be closely examined. You will be asked questions about your joint swelling, such as:

  • Location
    • Which joint is swollen?
    • Is more than one joint swollen?
  • Time pattern
    • When did the joint swelling develop?
    • Is it always swollen or does it come and go?
    • Is this the first time you have had swollen joints?
  • Quality
    • How swollen is the area?
    • If you press over the swollen area with a finger, does it leave a dent after you take the finger away?
  • Aggravating factors
    • What makes the swelling worse?
    • Is it any worse in the morning or at night?
    • Does exercise make it worse?
  • Relieving factors
    • What make the swelling better?
    • Does elevating the affected body part make the swelling go down?
    • Is it better if you use an elastic wrap?
    • What home treatment have you tried? How effective was it?
  • Other
    • What other symptoms are also present?
    • Is there joint pain?
    • Is there fever?
    • Is there a rash?

Tests to diagnose the cause of joint swelling may include:

Physical therapy for muscle and joint rehabilitation may be recommended.

Prevention:



References:

Moder KG, Hunder GG. History and physical examination of the musculoskeletal system. In: Harris ED, Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, Sledge CB, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005:chap 33.

Arend WP, Lawry GV. Approach to the patient with rheumatic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 277.




Review Date: 8/12/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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