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What is Joint Inflammation?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The presence of irritation within the joints that occurs as the result of cartilage degeneration is known as joint inflammation. Manifesting in the presence of a variety of conditions, including injury and disease, joint inflammation is frequently characterized by swelling and pain that impairs the functionality of the affected joint. Often presenting as a chronic condition, treatment for joint inflammation is dependent on the cause, severity, and location of the inflammation.

Individuals with joint inflammation, also known as arthritis, pain may experience varying degrees of discomfort. Initially, they may notice stiffness in the affected joint that progressively becomes more pronounced. With time, the affected area may start to swell, adopt a reddish hue, and feel warm to the touch due to the increased circulation triggered by the body's immuno response to the presence of inflammation. Usually, fluid will subsequently accumulate in the affected joint causing the swollen area to feel spongy to the touch. As the inflammation worsens, the functionality of the affected joint may become significantly impaired.

Several tests may be conducted to determine the cause of the inflammation and confirm a diagnosis of arthritis. A sample of the fluid that has accumulated around the affected joint may be obtained and submitted for laboratory analysis. Imaging tests, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan and X-ray, are frequently utilized to evaluate the condition of the inflamed joint. Blood tests may also be ordered to check for markers indicative of the presence of inflammation and infection.

Joint inflammation may affect individuals of all ages and develop in response to a variety of conditions. Individuals who sustain a joint injury or fracture often develop temporary presentations of arthritic pain. In some cases, joint inflammation may occur in the presence of a bacterial infection. Prompt and appropriate treatment is essential with the existence of infection or injury to prevent the development of complications and long-term joint damage. Associated with the degeneration of the cartilage that lines the joints, arthritis may also manifest as part of the natural aging process.

Personal factors, including age and activity level, are often considered when determining an appropriate treatment approach. In many cases, simple lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, are recommended to improve joint mobility and alleviate discomfort. Topical and oral over-the-counter (OTC) medications may also be utilized to help alleviate swelling and pain. When OTC medications do not do enough to ease the discomfort associated with joint inflammation, prescription medications may be administered, including immunosuppressants and corticosteroids. In the presence of significant joint damage, surgery may be performed to rebuild and restore functionality to the affected joint.

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