A common complaint among knee injuries is a condition frequently called water on the knee or sometimes, simply, swollen knee. A doctor might refer to this as an effusion of the knee, which indicates the movement of fluid.
There are many causes for water on the knee, and it will take an examination and possibly some laboratory analysis of the fluid to figure out the underlying cause of the effusion. The first noticeable symptoms, however, include a swollen, puffy, stiff knee. It is likely to be painful. In addition, the swollen area could be soft and pliable, moving the way a water balloon feels when you poke at it.
There are many possible causes for water on the knee. There could be an underlying disease present. Your knee could be swollen from acute trauma, such as a sports injury involving a collision or an over-stretching of a ligament. Over-use could be the problem. This implies long-term use of the knee, often in a repetitive fashion, that has worn down some of the joint’s cartilage. A bone could be fractured or broken. An infection could have set in. Various diseases could also result in water on the knee.
The most common knee diseases include osteoarthritis, gout, pseudogout, blood or bone infections, tumors, cysts, or bursitis.
There are risk factors involved in knee conditions, including age – the older we get, the more susceptible we get to many conditions – lifestyle, especially when involved in high-stress sports, and obesity. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to injury your knees or have cartilage wear down over time.
If you can avoid getting old, that would help. Unfortunately, no one has figured that out yet. However, you can strengthen your leg muscles to give more support to your knee when you need it. You can also try losing weight to take some stress off of your knees.
Doctors will first interview the patient to see if there is an obvious lifestyle or family history factor to take into consideration. After this, the physician may order an X-ray, an ultra-sound or MRI imaging to be done to get a look at what is happening in your knee.
If imaging does not result in a firm diagnosis, the doctor may try a joint aspiration, also called an arthrocentesis procedure. This involves drawing some of the fluid out of the knee (with a syringe and a need), then sending the fluid to the laboratory to look, primarily, for the presence of bacteria, indicating an infection or crystals, indicating either gout or pseudogout.
Treatment might begin with drawing fluid from the joint to reduce the stiffness and pain. In some cases, the fluid may not return, and the patient will not need further treatment. However, there’s a chance the fluid will return, as the cause of the fluid has not been addressed.
Treatment may also involve the use of antibiotics, pain, or anti-inflammatory medication or surgery. The surgery could include a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure or a more complicated procedure. Knee replacement surgery is also a possibility, depending on the underlying condition and after serious discussions of alternative therapies.