It is not much of a stretch to say that our knee joints are probably the most vital in the functioning and mobility of the body. This means that any injury or swelling to the area cannot be ignored under any circumstances. You must have heard a lot about the knee joint swelling up, especially in middle-aged and elderly people. Well, one of the reasons for this could be a condition called knee effusion.

In short, knee effusion occurs when excess fluid accumulates in or around the knee joint, thus leading to swelling and pain. It is more commonly referred to as ‘water on the knee’. But how and why does it occur? What are the symptoms and treatment? Let’s take a look.


 Knee effusion is more common in elderly people which points to the fact that age-related deterioration of the knee and the bones is what results this condition. However, knee effusion can also be attributed to lifestyle and even diseases.

Knee osteoarthritis

More often than not, it is osteoarthritis that causes knee effusion eventually. In this condition, the joint cartilage and the respective bone deteriorates over time and with age, mostly due to repeated stress or injury. This eventually leads to swollen and painful joints, with the knee joint also included. The effect is heightened with a more sedentary lifestyle.

Rheumatoid arthritis

This is an auto-immune disease in which the immune system destroys the bones and joints over time.

Physical trauma

Knee joints are quite sensitive and injury-prone, especially in individuals involved in regular sports and physical activities. Any force or impact on the knee can damage the area and result in pain, inflammation and stiffness. Even the twisting of the knee or hypertension can be a cause of knee effusion.


Being overweight also increases the risk of knee effusion as our knee joints and muscles support the weight of the body.


Many diseases such as gout (crystallization of uric acid in joints), bursitis (swelling of fluidal cavities around the knee), tumours in the knee region, and infections such as tuberculosis, Lyme disease, brucellosis, gonorrhoea, etc. also contribute to knee effusion.

Here’s how knee effusion manifests in the body. All the joints of the body are enclosed by a capsule-like membrane. Since a joint’s role is to allow smooth movement of limbs and muscles that it connects, it needs lubrication. This lubrication is provided by the joint fluid present inside the joint capsule. Now, in response to any injury to the knee, the excess joint fluid begins to build up in order to protect the joint, thus resulting in knee effusion.

As we will find out later, this painful physical condition can be treated and cured by wearing a knee support and opting for other therapies, medication and procedures.


The three main symptoms of knee effusion are:


There is noticeable swelling around the knee cap, and it looks puffy, tender and sore.


There is pain in the knee joint, even when it is at rest. The degree of pain can vary.


There is a gradual loss of mobility and movement around the concerned knee which makes bending or straightening it extremely uncomfortable and painful. In extreme cases, patients might not be able to stand or walk.

Other less common symptoms indicative of tumour-related swelling include fever, while swelling without pain can indicate Lyme disease.


The first step to treating knee effusion begins at home. By using the RICE procedure, many mild knee effusion cases can be easily treated. It involves Rest (preventing movement of the joint as much as possible), Ice (application of ice to relieve the pain and swelling through the means of cold packs 5-6 times a day for 15 minutes in one go), Compression (using a knee support to prevent further knee injury), and Elevation (keeping the raised above the heart level as much as possible).

Here, it is extremely important to opt for the highest quality knee supports and braces for quicker recovery. One can easily avail these online from popular medical supply portals such as Smart Medical Buyer which keep an inventory of professionally-recommended medical equipment and supplies, right from hand sanitizer to stethoscopes to blood sugar test kits.

In serious cases of knee effusion, or when the home treatment doesn’t work, a quick diagnosis by a doctor can help identify the root of the problem. This is done via X-rays, MRI, ultrasound, and joint aspiration. Pain-relief and anti-inflammatory drugs along with physiotherapy is extremely helpful. However, if knee effusion is due to some disease or tumour, and regular treatments do not work, complex medical procedures are utilized to suck out the fluid built up in the knee, operate the knee to fix the cartilage, or simply replace the knee joint.

At the end of the day, the best way to prevent knee effusion is to maintain a healthy diet, a healthy weight, and an active lifestyle which includes exercises such as running and cycling that keep the legs and knees in shape.

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