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What Causes Your Knee To Swell Up

Symptoms Of A Swollen Knee

Discover the Fastest Way to Relieve Knee Swelling, Pain, and Inflammation
  • The skin around the kneecap is puffy
  • The knee is stiff and its difficult to bend or straighten it
  • Its painful and bearing weight is difficult or impossible
  • Redness or warmth

Swelling that does not go away, also known as chronic swelling, can lead to joint damage, cartilage degradation, or bone softening.

Osteoarthritis The Most Common Reason For A Swollen Knee

Osteoarthritis is by nature an inflammatory condition. As your arthritis worsens you may notice that the swelling is always present in the knee. Removing the fluid from an arthritic knee will usually make you feel better. Unfortunately for many arthritis sufferers, the swelling might return very rapidly.

If your knee is swelling due to Osteoarthritis, its implied that your cartilage or the cushioning within the knee joint is wearing thin. The arthritic process also changes the chemicals within the knee and creates a rather hostile environment within the knee joint. This causes the Synovium to become irritated and produce a significant amount of fluid. Occasionally that fluid will migrate to the back of the knee and cause swelling in the back of the knee. If you have a swollen area in the back of the knee it is likely a Bakers cyst.

Types Of Knee Swelling

Knee swelling usually develops in one of four ways:

  • Rapid Swelling After An Injury: knee swelling comes on immediately after an injury e.g
  • Delayed Swelling After An Injury: that appears a few hours after an injury
  • Gradual Swelling Without An Injury: that develops and often fluctuates without an injury
  • Rapid Swelling Without An Injury: that comes on very suddenly without an injury
  • Let’s have a look at the features of each and then we’ll look at the common causes.

    1. Rapid Knee Swelling After An Injury

    A swollen knee that develops immediately after an injury, within minutes, is usually due to haemarthrosis, where blood accumulates in the joint. Essentially what happens is that a structure inside the knee gets damaged and starts to bleed. The blood pools inside the capsule building up pressure in the joint.

    Knee swelling after an injury is normally profuse and the knee typically balloons very quickly. It will feel tense and very sore and is often accompanied by bruising, although that may take longer to develop. A sudden, swollen knee caused by a haemarthrosis needs urgent medical attention.

    2. Delayed Knee Swelling After An Injury

    If a swollen knee develops anything from a few hours to a few days after an injury, it is most likely due to an increase in the synovial fluid in the joint a knee effusion.

    3. Gradual Knee Swelling Without An Injury

    4. Rapid Knee Swelling Without An Injury

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    When To Contact A Medical Professional

    • You cannot bear weight on your knee.
    • You have severe pain, even when not bearing weight.
    • Your knee buckles, clicks, or locks.
    • Your knee is deformed or misshapen.
    • You cannot flex your knee or have trouble straightening it all the way out.
    • You have a fever, redness or warmth around the knee, or a lot of swelling.
    • You have pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, or bluish discoloration in the calf below the sore knee.
    • You still have pain after 3 days of home treatment.

    Things That Cause Fluid Buildup

    Swollen knee

    Several things can lead to extra fluid, or edema, in one leg, or both:

    Congestive heart failure: This happens when your heart is too weak to pump all the blood your body needs. It leads to fluid buildup, especially in your legs. Other symptoms of congestive heart failure:

    Learn more about heart failure symptoms.

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    What Causes Osteoarthritis Of The Knee

    Osteoarthritis of the knee happens when your knee joint cartilage wears out or is damaged. Articular cartilage is tough, rubbery tissue on the ends of your bones that lets you bend and move. Meniscal cartilage absorbs shock from pressure on your knee.

    Your cartilage is like your cars shock absorber, protecting your car from bumps and jolts. Drive on lots of rough roads, your shocks wear out fast. Drive on easy streets, your shocks last longer. You can wear out or damage your knee joint cartilage if:

    • Youre overweight. If your body mass index is 30 or more, youre seven times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in your knee than someone with a lower BMI.
    • You injure your knee or have an old knee injury.
    • You frequently put stress on your knee at your job or playing sports.
    • You inherited a tendency to develop osteoarthritis of the knee.
    • You have crooked bones or joints, such as having knocked knees.

    What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Arthritis Of The Knee

    It might be helpful to arrive at your healthcare providers office with a list of questions you want or need to be answered. Consider:

    • Do I have arthritis in one knee or both?
    • What type of arthritis do I have?
    • Whats a possible cause of my arthritis?
    • What treatments do you recommend?
    • What medications should I take?
    • Do I need physical therapy?

    A note from Cleveland Clinic

    Knee arthritis can affect people of all ages. Its painful, impairs movement and causes swelling of the joint. Some people are so disabled by it that they cant work anymore. Others can only work after surgery. Meanwhile, for others, the pain isnt necessarily as bad, but it still prevents them from regular activities like cleaning, gardening and running after their kids.

    Arthritis of the knee can decrease your quality of life. The good news is that treatments can lessen the severity of your symptoms. The pain and swelling might not be as bad. See your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment if you have symptoms.

    Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/18/2021.

    References

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    Causes Of Knee Swelling

    Trauma is a common cause of swelling in the knee. In these instances the fluid in the knee might be blood from a meniscus tear or an ACL tear. The swelling from an acute injury will diminish over time as the blood is reabsorbed. If you have a very swollen knee after a traumatic injury you should see an Orthopedic Surgeon to determine what type of injury you might have sustained. Most injuries that result in significant swelling due to bleeding have a ligament tear such as an ACL tear. Cartilage injuries are less common, but still on the list of possibilities.

    The type of fluid in your knee can help us determine what is wrong with your knee. It is not uncommon for us to recommend putting a needle into your knee for a fluid sample. That sample can be tested to look for common sources of knee swelling. As youll see below just the appearance of the fluid can help us determine what is wrong.

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    What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Arthritis Of The Knee

    Swelling Knee Joint Fluid Build up treatment for water on the knee

    There are many signs and symptoms of arthritis of the knee:

    • Creaking, clicking, grinding or snapping noises .
    • Difficulty walking.
    • Joint pain that changes depending on the weather.
    • Joint stiffness.
    • Knee joint pain that progresses slowly or pain that happens suddenly.
    • Skin redness.
    • Your knee locks or sticks when its trying to move.
    • Warm skin.

    Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis of the knee. Some treatments might reduce the severity of your symptoms or even stall the progression. See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of knee arthritis.

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    Mildly Swollen But Painless Knee: Possible Cause

    The most common cause of non-traumatic knee swelling is a misalignment of the large tibia bone that comprises the lower part of the knee joint, says Eugene Charles, DC, Diplomate of applied kinesiology and author of Journey to Healing: The Art and Science of Applied Kinesiology.

    This frequently happens insidiously through daily activities where you turn your leg and foot out repetitively.

    These subtle movements include getting out of a chair or car seat and going up stairs.

    Over time the tibia bone rotates slightly out of alignment and needs to be realigned through a precise chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment.

    Resting it only helps because you are not using it, but rest alone does not fix the underlying cause of the knee problem specifically the misalignment of the knee joint itself.

    How Is Knee Swelling Treated

    Depending on the type and severity of your problem, treatments range from surgery to home remedies. Non-surgical remedies include:

    • RICE: an abbreviation for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, is best to do shortly after suffering an injury. RICE can be helpful for managing minor pain.
    • Compression: wrapping the knee not too tightly in an elastic bandage
    • Physical therapy: doing exercises to strengthen the knee and improve its stability
    • Wearing a brace on the knee
    • Taking over-the-counter pain-relief medication
    • If you are overweight, losing weight to reduce pressure on the knee

    In some cases pain medication or a lubricating substance might be injected into the knee. Or a needle may be used to reduce swelling by removing excess fluid.

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    Preparation Of Thigh Bone

    The first bone your health care provider will resurface is your femur, generally referred to as the thigh bone. Once the health care provider has opened up and uncovered your knee joint, they will be able to cautiously measure your bones and make specific cuts to the usage of special instruments.

    A femur is cut away from the end that has broken and cartilage has been removed. To fit the primary component of the artificial knee, the femoral component, the end of your femur must be reduced and resurfaced.

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    9 Swollen Knees Causes, Say Doctors

    by Alison Gwinn, AARP, September 20, 2019

    En español | Oh, my aching knees! If that’s your daily refrain, whether you’re walking the dog, climbing stairs or just sleeping, you’re not alone.

    For many, the culprit behind that nagging soreness is osteoarthritis, which affects an estimated 31 million Americans quite often, in this particular joint according to the Arthritis Association.

    But there are other common causes of knee pain, stemming from the fact that knees are our largest, most complex joints. Knee joints allow you to stand up straight, walk stairs and get up and down from sitting, says Daniel Saris, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic and professor of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Medical School. But they are also the most difficult joint because they’re not stable. Hip joints and ankles are both pretty stable by themselves, but the knee is just three bones trying to be good friends, and they need muscles and ligaments for stability.”

    Knee pain is not to be taken lightly. A Japanese study, published last year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found a link between the onset of knee pain in people 65 or older and depression. And a recent study from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine Thurston Arthritis Research Center and Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that knee pain in men and women over age 45 correlated with higher rates of death.

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    Pain Swelling And Knee Stiffness

    First lets talk about pain: Its the bodys way of preventing you from making an injury worse. Since pain may limit movement, it can cause stiffness in the knees, as can any ongoing injury.

    Knees become swollen when excess fluid builds up inside the knee due to an injury, overuse, or medical condition. This can cause sensations of tightness as well as pain. Swelling may be subtle, so you may not always notice it unless its a severe injury. Since the swelling may not be visible, you may feel this as stiffness in the knee.

    Any type of swelling will cause limited movement since theres less space in the knee. Irritation, internal bleeding, and injuries in the knee can lead to fluid buildup. Arthritis, gout, and tumors or cysts are conditions that can also cause swelling.

    Pain and swelling are two mechanisms your body uses to protect itself. Together they can lead to stiffness in your knee. Next, lets look at possible causes.

    Treatment Of A Swollen Knee:

    If the knee is swollen because of trauma, injury or sports, then consider seeing an Orthopedic Surgeon soon for evaluation.

    If this is your first swollen knee episode and you are not known to have a history of osteoarthritis it is very important to have your knee evaluated by your primary care doctor or an orthopedist. This is especially true if you live in regions of the country where tick borne illnesses are common. Lyme disease is far easier to treat if caught early.

    If your knee is swollen, and exceptionally painful it is important to be evaluated on an urgent or emergent basis to be sure you are not suffering from an infection. Typically the swelling associated with gout or infections is far more severe pain than the swelling associated with the other causes of inflammation. If you have a hot, swollen and exceptionally painful knee you will require testing of the fluid from within your knee to rule out either gout or an infection.

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    Getting A Diagnosis For Swollen Knee

    Chronic swelling can cause permanent damage to the joint tissue, cartilage and bone. It is therefore important to ask your doctor for advice if your swelling doesnt go down.

    They’ll discuss your symptoms and carry out a physical examination.

    They may arrange for you to have some tests. These may include an:

    They may also arrange for you to have joint aspiration. This is when a fine needle is inserted into the swollen area to check for blood, bacteria or crystals

    Fluid Outside The Knee Joint

    What are the causes of swelling in knees? – Dr.Nagesh HS

    The most common cause of excessive fluid in the soft tissue surrounding the knee is prepatellar bursitis. This is inflammation of a fluid-filled sac which cushions the kneecap . The buildup can be seen and felt at the top of the kneecap. It is not something you would see under the knee.

    An injury such as a contusion may also cause localized swelling. In some cases, the buildup of blood and fluid may mimic an acute injury of the knee joint.

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    Preparing The Shin Bone

    The physician attaches the metallic femoral element to the end of your femur and uses bone cement to seal it into place. The tibia or shinbone is resurfaced into some subsequent bone by surgeon.

    The physician eliminates broken bone and cartilage from the pinnacle of the tibia, which shapes the bone to match the metallic and plastic tibial components.

    What Are The Potential Complications Of Behind Knee Swelling

    Swelling related to cancers may have life-threatening consequences, which depend on the type and stage of the . Left untreated, swelling due to abscesses or serious infections may lead to widespread infection in the body. Behind knee swelling and associated symptoms can be due to serious diseases, so failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage.

    Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis In The Knee

    Pain is the most common symptom of osteoarthritis in the knee. Your knee might hurt when you move it, or even when you are just sitting still. Other symptoms are:

    • Your knee feels stiff, particularly when you first get up or when youve been sitting for a long time.
    • Your knee looks swollen or feels puffy.
    • You hear a cracking or grinding noise when you move your knee.
    • Your knee feels wobbly, as if it could buckle or give out.”
    • Your knee might lock up, or feel as if it is stuck.

    Treatments For Swollen Knee

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    • Your treatment will depend on whats causing your swollen knee and how painful it is. Your doctor will recommend the most appropriate treatment after diagnosing the underlying cause.

      In most cases, youll be advised to take painkillers. You can also apply ice and elevate your knee to help reduce the swelling. Sometimes removing some of the fluid in your knee helps reduce the pain and stiffness.

      Other treatments include:

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    Surgical And Other Procedures

    Treating the underlying cause of a swollen knee might require:

    • Arthrocentesis. Removing fluid from the knee can help relieve pressure on the joint. After aspirating joint fluid, your doctor might inject a corticosteroid into the joint to treat inflammation.
    • Arthroscopy. A lighted tube is inserted through a small incision into your knee joint. Tools attached to the arthroscope can remove loose tissue or repair damage in your knee.
    • Joint replacement. If bearing weight on your knee joint becomes intolerable, you might need knee replacement surgery.

    Your doctor might also recommend physical therapy to improve your knee’s function and strength.

    When Will My Knee Feel Better

    The recovery time depends on your injury. Also, some people naturally heal faster than others.

    While you get better, ask your doctor if you can do an activity that won’t aggravate your knee pain. For instance, runners could try swimming or other types of lower-impact cardio.

    Whatever you do, don’t rush things. Donât try to return to your regular level of physical activity until you notice these signs:

    • You feel no pain in your knee when you bend or straighten it.
    • You feel no pain in your knee when you walk, jog, sprint, or jump.
    • Your injured knee feels as strong as the other knee.

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