Introduction to Joint Effusion

The joint effusion may affect different joints in the human body. The course of the disease depends primarily on the cause of the disease and the individual response to therapeutic measures.

What is joint effusion?

Joint effusion (also known as hydrops articularis in medicine) is an accumulation of fluid in the joint.

The fluids that are found in the joint area during a joint effusion can have different compositions depending on the person affected and the symptoms. For example, a corresponding liquid can have a bloody or also a purulent consistency.

The typical external symptoms that are often associated with a joint effusion include swelling and / or reddening of the affected joint. The contours of the joints are often changed due to the swelling that is present. If a joint affected by the joint effusion is reddened or overheated, this indicates an acute inflammatory process.

In many cases, joint effusion is accompanied by locally limited pain, feelings of tension and restricted mobility.


Joint effusion can be caused by various factors. The joint effusion is often a symptom of existing degenerative diseases that affect the joint.

Trauma (i.e. injuries resulting from external violence), damage to the articular cartilage, overstressing or incorrect loading of the joint, various joint infections or inflammation of the synovial membrane (also known as synovitis) can result in joint effusion.

In addition, various diseases, such as haemophilia (also known as hemophilia), gout (a joint disease that, among other things, is based on high uric acid levels) or joint tumors, are possible causes of joint effusion.

If an accumulation of fluid in the joint has a purulent consistency, the corresponding joint effusion is usually the result of an injury associated with an open wound. If blood collects in the joint during a joint effusion, this is in most cases due to a bleeding disorder or trauma.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

Symptoms of joint effusion are both general and specific. Joint effusion is usually noticeable through severe pain and swelling in the affected joints. The swellings are visible and palpable. They cause tension in the skin over the joint.

The contours in this area can change completely. When the knee is affected, the appearance of the floating kneecap can occur, with the kneecap changing position. Sometimes a movement of fluid in the joint is also felt. Another common symptom is severe restrictions on movement.

An acute inflammation often develops during a joint effusion, which manifests itself as reddening and overheating of the swollen joint. Accompanying this also can chills, fever and general malaise occur. The course of the inflammation also depends on the type of effusion. This means that synovial fluid can increasingly accumulate in the joint. But it can also be body fluids that are usually not found in the joint.

These include blood or pus, among others. If there is an accumulation of pus, dangerous infectious inflammations with severe fever and chills are possible. The success of joint puncture treatment always depends on the cause of the effusion. Although the pressure inside the joint is always reduced during a puncture, certain causes of the disease can still worsen the symptoms.

Diagnosis & course

If an existing joint effusion is suspected, a consultation with the patient can usually help to narrow down the possible causes. For the purpose of a more precise diagnosis of the cause, various examination methods can be used:

In the context of a joint puncture, if there is a joint effusion, for example, a small amount of accumulated fluid can be removed from the joint; the liquid obtained can now be examined in the laboratory. In order to take a closer look at the joint structures affected by a joint effusion, it is also possible, for example, to use so-called imaging methods (such as x-rays or ultrasound examinations).

The course of a joint effusion depends primarily on the cause of the disease – if a joint effusion is a chronic (long-term) disease process (such as degenerative diseases or blood clotting disorders), the symptoms that occur can increase steadily in some cases despite medical treatment.


The complications of joint effusion depend to a large extent on the affected region, which is why it is generally not possible to make a universal prediction. In most cases, however, there is pain and movement restrictions. The movement restrictions can lead to psychological complaints and depression in many people and thus reduce the quality of life enormously.

The joints swell a lot and feel warm or hot. In the affected areas, the skin is also reddened and may show pain at rest, which prevails even without pressure. It is not uncommon for the persistent pain and swelling to cause sleep problems, which can lead to an aggressive posture or irritability.

In most cases, a joint effusion is treated causally, whereby the treatment usually shows a positive sale of the disease. There are no particular complications if the person concerned does not put excessive strain on the joint and is gentle on it. The pain is also treated with the help of pain relievers, which in the long term can damage the stomach. The life expectancy is not restricted by a joint effusion.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who are affected by swollen joints can have their joints cooled without consulting a doctor. If the swelling occurs as a result of intense physical exertion, the symptoms usually subside within a short time. After a sufficient period of rest, you will be free of symptoms. If the swelling persists for several days or if it increases in size, a doctor’s visit is necessary. In the event of sudden swelling after a fall or accident, a doctor should be consulted.

If there is discoloration of the skin, pain or mobility restrictions, help is needed. Consult a doctor if there are signs such as dizziness, general malaise or unsteady gait. Any heat build-up or a sensation of heat directly on the joints should be examined by a doctor. If daily tasks can no longer be carried out as usual due to the complaints, a visit to the doctor is required.

In the event of one-sided physical strain or poor posture, a doctor should be consulted, as permanent damage to health can develop. If the symptoms lead to behavioral problems, mood swings or a depressive appearance, a doctor’s visit is necessary. Consult a doctor before using pain relievers. To avoid further complications, you should not take it yourself.

Treatment & Therapy

The medical treatment of a joint effusion depends, among other things, on factors such as the individual cause of the disease, the symptoms and the location of the affected joint. After a joint effusion has been suffered, doctors usually recommend first relieving or protecting the joint in question; In addition, cooling and elevating the joint can have a positive effect on the symptoms.

One possible treatment method for existing joint effusions is joint puncture; The removal of accumulated fluid from the joint is not only used for diagnostic purposes, but usually also relieves the strain on the joint. If normal internal joint pressure is restored in this way, the symptoms accompanying the joint effusion usually also subside.

Depending on the patient and the severity of the symptoms, repeated puncturing of the affected joint may be necessary during the course of treatment. If joint effusion is accompanied by very severe pain in the affected person, another possible therapy component is the administration of pain-relieving medication.

An advanced course of treatment then usually integrates movement exercises to mobilize the spared joint.

In parallel to the treatment of the joint effusion, therapeutic measures are often carried out that focus on the underlying disease / injury.

Outlook & forecast

A joint effusion can proceed very differently depending on the cause. If the swelling is caused by a relatively harmless trigger such as a bruise, it will subside within a few days. If there is a ruptured muscle fiber or ligament, the prognosis is worse. The patient must undergo an operation and then receive physical therapy to restore the mobility of the joint. Nevertheless, the affected person has to live with restricted mobility for the next few weeks and months.

The joint can also continue to be painful and sensitive to external stimuli and changes in the weather. In principle, however, the prognosis for joint effusion is very good. If the swelling is cooled immediately and then treated by a doctor, long-term consequences can usually be avoided. After a short time, the pain should be gone, and the joint swelling itself will slowly subside.

People who suffer from a joint effusion due to a rheumatic disease have no prospect of a full recovery, as the effusion is just a symptom that can recur. Patients need permanent medical care and lifelong medication to reduce any pain. In severe cases, rheumatism patients need support in everyday life.


In particular, joint effusion, which is caused by chronic underlying diseases, can only be prevented to a limited extent; The main preventive measures here are the consistent treatment of the underlying disease. Joint effusion caused by external force can be counteracted by wearing appropriate protective clothing (e.g. when doing risky sports).


Joint effusion does not always have to be treated by a doctor. In many cases, home remedies are sufficient to treat this properly so that there are no further complications or complaints. First and foremost, the person concerned has to cool the effusion.

The earlier this is cooled, the smaller it becomes. The joint itself should be positioned high up to allow undisturbed blood flow. Painkillers may also be taken to relieve the pain from this injury. The person affected should be careful not to take the painkillers together with alcohol, as this will significantly reduce their effect.

These should also only be taken after medical advice. If the pain is very severe or the symptoms of the effusion do not go away on their own, a doctor must be consulted in any case. Surgery may also be necessary to treat the injury.

After this procedure, the affected joint should not be stressed, and strenuous activities or sporting activities should generally be avoided. The life expectancy of the person affected is usually not restricted by a joint effusion.

You can do that yourself

A joint effusion always requires a medical clarification. What measures the affected person can take themselves depends on the cause and location of the effusion. Relief and immobilization are recommended in every case.

Initially, the affected joint should be cooled and positioned upwards. After the medical treatment, the gradual mobilization can then take place. Recovery can sometimes be promoted through light physiotherapy and massages. The doctor will refer the patient to a specialist for this purpose.

In order to avoid complications, independent treatment measures that go beyond restraint should be refrained from. However, the symptoms can be relieved by using light home remedies. Green tea, cranberry juice or the anti-inflammatory kefir help against the pain.

Swelling can be reduced with cooling or warm pads, a salt bath or quark compresses. Various homeopathic remedies have also proven themselves, such as globules with arnica or Bellis perennis, healing mud or Schüßler salts. Here, too, the following applies: discuss the use with a doctor beforehand in order to avoid problems.

If the joint effusion has not subsided after a week at the latest, further medical clarification is required.

Joint Effusion