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Arthritis Health Center

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Swollen Joints (Joint Effusion)

What Are the Symptoms of Swollen Joints?

Symptoms of swollen joints include:

  • Deep, aching pain
  • May feel warm to touch
  • Stiffness
  • Inability to move them normally

How Are Swollen Joints Treated?

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 relief of joint swelling and pain.

For inflammatory types of arthritis such as RA, psoriatic arthritis, and AS, 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) and biologic agents such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors.

Acute gout is 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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on March 22, 2014
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