Olecranon bursitis (inflammation of the bursa a the tip of the elbow) can occur from injury or minor trauma, as a result of systemic diseases such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, or can be due to a local infection. Olecranon bursitis is typically associated with swelling over the tip of the elbow, while range of motion of the inner elbow joint is maintained.
The bones of the elbow can break (fracture) into the elbow joint or adjacent to the elbow joint. Fractures generally require immobilization and casts and can require orthopedic pinning or open joint surgery.
A sprain is a stretch or tear injury to a ligament. One or more ligaments can be injured during a sprain. This might occur when the elbow is hyperextended or simply jammed, such as in a "stiffarm" collision. The severity of the injury will depend on the extent of injury to a single ligament (whether the tear is partial or complete) and the number of ligaments involved. Treatment involves rest, ice, immobilization, compression, and anti-inflammation drugs.
What are diseases and conditions that can cause elbow pain, and how are they treated?
Arthritis of the Elbow
Inflammation of the elbow joint (arthritis) can occur as a result of many systemic forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and reactive arthritis (formerly called Reiter's disease). Generally, they are associated with signs of inflammation of the elbow joint, including heat, warmth, swelling, pain, tenderness, and decreased range of motion. Range of motion of the elbow is decreased with arthritis of the elbow because the swollen joint impedes the range of motion.
Inflammation of the skin related to infection (cellulitis) commonly occurs as a result of abrasions of the skin. When abrasions or puncture wounds occur, bacteria on the surface of the skin can invade the deeper layers. This causes inflamed skin characterized by heat, redness, warmth, and swelling. The most common bacteria that cause cellulitis include Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. Patients can have an associated low-grade fever. Cellulitis generally requires antibiotic treatment, either orally or intravenously. Heat application can help in the healing process. Cellulitis can lead to infection of the olecranon bursa, causing olecranon bursitis, as described above.
Infected Elbow Joint (Septic Arthritis)
Infection of the elbow joint with bacteria (septic arthritis) is uncommon. It is most often seen in patients with suppressed immune systems or diabetes, those taking cortisone medications, or intravenous drug abusers. The most common bacteria that cause infection of the elbow joint are Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. Septic arthritis of the elbow requires antibiotic treatment and often surgical drainage. It is characterized by heat, swelling, warmth, redness, and pain, with limited range of motion of the elbow joint. Septic arthritis is often associated with fever, sweats, and chills.