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What Causes a Swollen Knee?

Your knee is the largest joint in your body, and for good reason. It’s a complex combination of bones, tendons, and muscles that helps you walk, run, jump, and generally live an active and healthy life. With this in mind, you may be alarmed when your knee starts to swell. This swelling and the pain that accompanies it can put a serious damper on your everyday activities.

Fortunately, a swollen knee doesn’t last forever. With proper diagnosis and treatment, your knee can return to normal and your pain will go away.  

Are you currently suffering from a swollen knee? If so, come see the team at Steven E. Nolan, MD. Dr. Nolan is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience and has received numerous top-surgeon awards during his career. Here, he discusses knee swelling, its symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment.

About knee swelling

Knee swelling, also known as knee effusion, is sometimes called water on the knee because of the soft, spongy appearance of a swollen knee. Swelling occurs when excess fluid pools in the knee joint, often to protect the knee from further damage. Knee swelling typically occurs with other symptoms, including:

You should book an appointment to come see Dr. Nolan if self-care and medication do not help reduce the swelling.

Causes and risk factors

Bursitis, which occurs when the fluid-filled sacs in the knee, called the bursae, become irritated, is one of the most common sources of knee swelling. Bursitis can be caused by overuse or blunt force trauma to the knee. 

Arthritis is another leading origin of swelling. Beyond these two, injuries and diseases/conditions likely to spur knee swelling include:



The inflammation that often prompts swelling can be acute or chronic. Injuries are more likely to lead to acute swelling, while disease and infections are linked to chronic swelling. Old age, sports, and obesity are leading risk factors for knee swelling.

Diagnosis and treatment with arthroscopy

Dr. Nolan specializes in knee arthroscopy, which uses a tiny fiber-optic scope and thin surgical instruments to treat injuries of the knee. He has found that this minimally invasive procedure is an effective means for diagnosing, treating, and recovering from knee injuries. This method can often combine diagnosis and treatment into one surgery.

To learn more about swollen knees and knee arthroscopy, request an appointment online or over the phone with Steven E. Nolan, MD, today.

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