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Swollen Knee

What is Swollen Knee

Swollen knee is a medical condition that is basically common to those with a medical history of knee problem (such as arthritis and injury). The condition is also related to aging but does not leave children and pregnant women unaffected. Medically, this condition is identified as knee effusion which is known in Layman’s terms as “water on the knee”.

Anatomically, a knee is comprised of two joints, a patella, various ligaments and a meniscus which assist in initiating movement and for providing support. It is either a joint or ligament problem that results to swelling. This knee condition may be in an acute or chronic form. Others suffer from swelling of the area around the knee, depending on the cause of the problem. A number of possible causes are presented with knee swelling. Overworking of the knees, possible underlying conditions and infections are rooted for causing a swollen knee. Those with a swollen knee would usually complain of movement restriction, from pain and discomfort that lasts about 48 hours or even more. Additional symptom includes knee stiffness, which occurs mostly in early in the morning.

There are a number of tests that would assist a medical professional in identifying the root cause of knee swelling. The following are the diagnostic examinations for a swollen knee:

  1. Arthrocentesis. This test is known as joint aspiration. In the literal sense, the test would include the use of an aspirating needle to withdraw fluid from the affected knee. The specimen extracted will be analyzed for cell count and cultured for presence of bacteria and other causing agents. Crystallization would indicate for presence of gout, which needs further tests such as checking for uric acid blood count.
  2. X-ray. This test helps identify for presence of injury or trauma to the knee.
  3. MRI scan. This aids in viewing the affected knee clearly. Small abnormalities which are usually overlooked in an x-ray can be easily identified in a MRI scan.
  4. Blood analysis. This would help identify presence of inflammation or infection. Increased ESR or erythrocyte sedimentation rate would indicate presence of inflammation. An increased level of CRP or C-reactive protein indicates infection, as well as presence of an inflammation process.

Causes of swollen knee

The following are the proposed causes:

Injury or trauma

Once a person has sustained any form of injury, an inflammatory process takes place (autoimmune reaction). When the ligaments of the knee are affected, the natural defenses takes place thus leading to inflammation. Trauma can also lead to blood accumulation thus increasing the swelling. Overwork or overuse of the knees can lead to injury thus causing swelling.

Arthritis

Chronic arthritis can lead to knee swelling, especially when undermanaged or improperly treated. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gouty arthritis affect the joints. Basically, the knees are just some of the areas where they present significant symptoms. Gout is known for its result of uric acid crystals accumulation in joint areas of the ankles, hands, toes and knees. There is also a condition known as pseudogout, which mimics or is misidentified as gout for it similar results but very different cause. Pseudogout is essentially caused by the accumulation of calcium crystals that eventually results to joint swelling.

Infection

This results to knee swelling when inflammation takes place as an immune response. Infection may also be a result from an untreated knee injury or trauma.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is common for women to suffer from fluid retention (thus leading to edema – common in the lower extremities). This phenomenon is particularly frequent in the second trimester of pregnancy. As the uterus increases its size, the mother’s vena cava (major blood vessel responsible for systemic blood circulation) may become partially obstructed. Thus resulting to fluid retention, majorly affecting the lower extremities as laws of gravity and anatomical positioning is concerned.

Lyme disease in children

The young are not spared from such condition, most especially those who suffer from Lyme disease. This condition, especially in later stages, would result to joint problems such as inflammation. There shall be persistent infection occurrences to children suffering from Lyme disease, making them susceptible to joint knee pain and swelling.

Ineffective diet

Those with a history of knee swelling and conditions that cause a swollen knee are most likely to have recurrence of the medical symptom, especially if one practices improper diet. The increase intake of salt and salty foods can lead to knee swelling. Salt intake should be limited, i.e. in pregnancy, for this element attracts water thus leading to fluid retention. Increased intake of purine-rich foods is also connected and related to swelling of the knee, for as its end product is uric acid.

Swollen Knee picture

Picture : Difference between normal side (right) and affected side (left)

Image source : boneandspine.com

Treatment

Management for swollen knee includes the following:

Natural remedies

Pain is one of the accompanying symptoms of a swollen knee that alternative interventions are somehow used to attain comfort. Such as these are ingredients that contain anti-inflammatory effects. Arnica is known to assist in the healing process of damaged connective tissues. Arthritis is known to be remedied by Dulcamara, a homeopathic remedy.

There is a known patch used to reduce the swelling of the knee and is considered a natural form of remedy. The OSMO patch is said not to contain anti-inflammatory agents or steroids, but has been found very effective in pain relief and in decreasing the swelling of the knee inflammation.

Rehabilitation

This intervention would include the known RICE method. “R” which stands for rest; provide bed rest to the affected person. “I”, which means ice application to the affected area. Remember that cold compress should have a limited time of application and should not be abused for it can cause further injury. “C” in RICE means compression or application of a pressure bandage. This intervention has a favorable result which is reduction of the swelling. It is much preferable that a professional therapist would do such intervention so not to have untoward result such as cutting off the blood supply in the compressed area. A designated amount of time should be observed when applying the bandage. “E” stands for elevation of the affected extremity. This facilitates in the reduction of the swelling.

Medication

Anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) agents such as ibuprofen are usually prescribed by doctors to clients who suffer from discomfort. Analgesics are also prescribed such as acetaminophen.

Diet

Avoid or limit intake of salts/salty foods and purine-rich foods.

Before any treatment, make sure you consult the experts. A visit to your doctor will be of great help in the treatment. Doing the treatment on your own will just make things worse.

References:

http://orthopedics.about.com/od/hipknee/f/kneeswelling.htm

http://www.nativeremedies.com/ailment/knee-pain-and-swelling-treatments.html

http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Knees-That-Swell.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knee_effusion#Causes



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