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Knee Joint Synovitis

By Lynn Hetzler ; Updated August 14, 2017

Knee pain can be merely an irritating condition or it may signal serious trouble. One cause of pain in the knee joint is a condition known as synovitis. Knee joint synovitis can be caused by chronic ailment such as arthritis, an injury or a disease. Certain types of cancer that attack soft tissue can also start in the tissue between the bones, called the synovium, according to the American Cancer Society. Fortunately, most knee joint synovitis is not deadly, but it is still a very serious situation to those who suffer from it.

Anatomy

The bones of the knee joint are protected by a special liquid filled membrane that lines the bones and encapsulates the joint. The main purpose of this synovium is to provide smooth motion by preventing the bones of the leg from grinding together when the knee is moved. Synovitis describes a condition in which the synovium is inflamed or damaged.

Causes

Synovitis can be caused by a wide variety of illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatic disease and sickle cell anemia. Synovitis of the knee can also be caused by injury or cancer. Testing is essential to determine the exact cause of chronic knee joint synovitis as some diseases like pigmented villonodular synovitis of the knee can mimic other diseases, according to an Oct. 1, 1999, article published in "American Family Physician."

Symptoms

Pain, swelling and stiffness in the knee joint are symptoms of synovitis. The person may have difficulty walking.

Diagnosis

A trip to the doctor is necessary, and she may order further testing such as X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans and even blood tests to help her diagnose knee joint synovitis. Sometimes fluid is taken from the knee with a needle and this fluid is sent to the laboratory to be tested. Testing includes measuring viscosity, clarity, color and whether certain substances like white blood cells are present.

Treatment

Based on the cause of synovitis, a variety of treatments can be prescribed. If the synovitis is caused by injury, rest and elevation of the leg may be called for. The knee should be wrapped with a compression bandage. If the synovitis is result of arthritis, anti-inflammatory medicine and pain relievers are used. If the arthritis is debilitating, arthroscopic surgery may be performed to remove all or part of the affected synovial tissue.

Prognosis

Depending on the cause of synovitis in the knee, the pain and inflammation may heal on its own or with the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain reducers. If the synovitis in the knee joint is caused by rheumatoid arthritis or other degenerative disease, the knee joint and leg bones will continue to degrade unless treatment is sought. Patients often experience relief after knee surgery.

Prevention

Of course, avoiding injury is always the best prevention but if a knee injury does not heal within a few days, seek professional advice so the wound does not turn into a chronic condition. For synovitis of the knee caused by arthritis, the best prevention is to continue therapy as prescribed.

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