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Fluid is normally found in joints such as knees, hips, and elbows. When too much fluid builds up around a joint in your body, it's called joint effusion. When you have this problem, your joint may look swollen.
Many things can cause fluid buildup in a joint. It may be caused by a condition like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout. It may also happen because of an infection. Or it can happen because of an injury, like a twisting fall.
You might feel pain when you try to straighten a joint where you have fluid buildup. Your joint may be stiff or swollen.
Your doctor will do a physical exam. You may need an X-ray. You may need other imaging tests, like an ultrasound, MRI, or a CT scan. Your doctor may remove some fluid from your joint to learn more. This is called arthrocentesis. It's done by using a needle to drain fluid from your joint.
Your doctor may suggest rest, ice, and raising the joint (elevation) to help with pain and swelling. Your doctor may suggest using non-prescription anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or getting a steroid shot. Or you may need surgery to repair damage.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Steven J. Atlas MD, MPH - Internal Medicine & Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
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