What Is Joint Effusion?

22 August 2017

Although it is normal to have a small amount of fluid in the wrist joints, this fluid can increase in volume quite rapidly. If a fluid build-up occurs, the wrist can appear swollen and inflamed. Quite often, this is referred to as joint effusion, a condition where the joint becomes swollen due to this abnormal accumulation of fluid in or around the joint.

Joint effusion can occur in numerous joints of the body. When it manifests in the wrist, this can be a symptom of underlying problems such as arthritis or gout. Depending on the severity of the joint effusion, it can also present varying symptoms of its own. To provide an overview of these symptoms, their causes, and possible treatments for joint effusion, we have compiled this concise guide to the condition.

What Causes Joint Effusion of the Wrist?

Joint effusion occurs when there is an excess of fluid in or surrounding the joints of the wrist. Although it is normal to have some fluid in the wrist, if there is an increase in this fluid then it can cause the wrist to appear swollen.

Typically, joint effusion will occur as a symptom of another condition affecting the wrist, such as arthritis or gout. It may also arise as a result of existing joint weakness or injury, or following a bacterial infection.

Who Can Develop Joint Effusion?

As the conditions and circumstances that can bring about joint effusion can affect people of all ages with a wide range of lifestyles, joint effusion of the wrist can also occur at any point. However, there are certain conditions and instances where the risk of developing joint effusion is increased. Examples of these include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Arthritis: Swelling can occur in the wrists as a condition of various types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis is caused by general wear and tear of the joint, and swelling can occur in joints that bear the most weight. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory arthritis, and can occur at any age.
  • Gout: Gout tends to be present as a result of frequent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis, where the joint becomes tender, hot, and swollen. An increase in uric acid becomes crystallised and then deposited in the joints, resulting in joint effusion.
  • Infections: Joint effusion can occur as a result of a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection of an arthritic joint. Such occurrences can be painful, resulting in both inflammation and swelling of the wrist.
  • Injuries: Following an injury to the wrist, a stiffness or consistent pain can arise. This can be a product of torn muscles or ligaments surrounding the joint, and this in turn may lead to joint effusion.

All of Our Wrist Supports for Joint Effusion

How Do I Treat Joint Effusion?

When joint effusion strikes, the pain can be unbearable, so it is important to weigh up the options available to you. Certain treatments may be preferred over others, depending on the severity and recurrence of the condition. Below are some examples of the possible treatments that may help relieve the debilitating symptoms of joint effusion.

Aspiration Procedures

In extreme cases of joint effusion, it may be necessary for a surgeon to perform aspiration on the swollen area. This is defined as the withdrawal or draining of fluid in the affected area with the use of a fine needle. This may require several sessions, and will require aftercare to the wrist. Your doctor can advise on this procedure, and whether or not it is the best approach for your condition.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, can be prescribed and taken orally to reduce the inflammation of the swollen area. Alongside the swelling reduction, they can also encourage pain relief, and may also result in the natural withdrawal of the fluid for more effective healing.

Cryotherapy Treatments

In some cases of joint effusion, cryotherapy may be practicable. This involves gently placing a cold pack over the swollen area to encourage a decrease in swelling and inflammation. This will also help to reduce pain so that you can better manage the condition.

Joint Immobilisation

Whether for mild cases of joint effusion or for post-operative aftercare and during rehabilitation, wearing a suitable wrist brace can dramatically alter the rate at which the affected area heals. Wearing a support that will immobilise the area to prevent any further damage from occurring, while also offering compression to encourage a quickened rate of healing, may not only relieve pain but can also result in a swifter recovery.

Finding the correct brace for your needs may also help to prevent joint effusion of the wrist from resurfacing, particularly in situations where it has developed as a result of infection or trauma. To view our full range of wrist supports for joint effusion, follow the button below.


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