Swollen Knee

1 What is Swollen Knee?

When excess of fluid accumulates in knee joint swollen knee occurs. Commonly known as “water in the knee”. Swollen knee maybe due to trauma, overuse injuries or underlying disease condition.

A sample of fluid is obtained from the swollen knee to test for infection and establish a diagnosis. Reduction of fluid from the knee will reduce the pressure and pain caused by swollen knee. Appropriate treatment can be started one diagnosis has been established.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of swollen knee include:

  • Swelling- noticeable swelling around the knee cap can be found especially when compared with the normal knee.
  • Stiffness- the skin around the knee joint is filled with fluid completely making it difficult to move the knee joint.
  • Pain- depending on the cause of fluid buildup the intensity of pain may vary making it difficult to apply pressure on the knee.

3 Causes

Many types of problems ranging from traumatic injuries to disease and other conditions, can cause a swollen knee.


Damage to any part of knee can cause fluid to accumulate in the knee joint. Injuries include:

  • torn ligament,
  • particularly the anterior cruciate ligament,
  • cartilage tear,
  • irritation from overuse and broken bones.

Diseases and conditions

Underlying diseases can lead to buildup of fluid in the knee joint. Diseases include:

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of swollen knee starts with physical examination and history of patient. Some of the following tests might be recommended depending on the severity of the situation and convenience of patient:

  • Imaging tests include:
    • X- ray- an x- ray can rule out broken or dislocated bones, and determine the condition of joint.
    • Ultrasound- this test can be used to check conditions like arthritis or disorders affecting tendons and ligaments.
    • MRI- tendon, ligament and soft tissue injuries can be detected with magnetic resonance imaging.
    • Joint aspiration- doctor withdraws fluid from the swollen knee. This fluid is then sent for lab tests to check for the presence of blood which may seem from injuries or bleeding disorders, bacteria which may be because of ongoing infectious process, crystals common for gout and pseudogout.

5 Treatment

Treatment for swollen knee varies depending on its cause. Treatment generally includes pain medications and removal of fluid from the joint.

Medications include:

  • Pain killers to treat the pain caused by inflammation
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling
  • Corticosteroids can be directly injected into the knee to reduce signs of inflammation

If swelling and pain is caused by gout drugs to reduce uric acid crystals from knee are given.

Surgical procedures include:

  • Arthrocentesis- removal of fluid from the joint will reduce the pressure and corticosteroid injections are given to reduce further inflammation.
  • Arthroscopy- arthroscope is inserted into the k=joint through a small incision in knee joint. Tools attached to the arthroscope remove or cure the damage in the knee joint.
  • Joint replacement- if bearing weight on the knee becomes intolerable one might need joint replacement surgery.

6 Prevention

To prevent swollen knee, it is advised that you:

  • Strengthen muscles around knee- strong muscles around knee joint will ease pressure on knee joint.
  • Choose low impact exercise- certain activities such as water aerobics and swimming, don’t place continuous weight on the knee reducing stress on knee joint.
  • Maintain healthy and low weight- excessive weight will increase load on the knee joint resulting in its damage.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Alternatives and home remedies to cure a swollen knee includes:

  • Ice: apply ice packs on the swollen knee to reduce pain and swelling in the joint.
  • Elevation: raise the knee joint for better and faster relief from knee joint swelling.
  • Over the counter pain relievers: anti-inflammatory drugs which cure five characteristic signs of inflammation (temperature, swelling, loss of function, pain and redness) will help reduce inflammation and pain in knee joint swelling.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

One of the best lifestyle changes which will increase the healing of knee joint include:

  • Rest- adequate rest will give adequate time for the knee joint to regenerate and heal faster.
  • Running- reduce running for some days until the swelling totally disappears.
  • Obesity- eat healthy food and reduce weight for better future life of knee joint.

Coping doesn't take much time depending on the severity of swelling it might take from few days to few weeks to completely heal knee joint.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with swollen knee.

Some of the common risk factors include:

  • Age: as age increases person’s risk to develop arthritis increases.
  • Sports: people who participate in sports that involve twisting knee such as basketball, football are likely to increase the pressure on knee joint and cause development of knee swelling.
  • Obesity: as increased weight puts more pressure on knee joint will increase the risk of person to acquire knee swelling.

Complications of knee joint swelling are as follows:

  • Muscle loss: fluid the knee may cause muscle loss or weakening of the thigh muscles.
  • Baker’s cyst: a fluid filled sac is formed in the knee joint know as baker’s sac.

It causes pain and compresses the tissues causing limitation of movement.