Can Arthritis Cause Swelling?

If you have arthritis, you’re probably all too familiar with the joint pain and stiffness that goes along with the condition. But you also may experience swelling.

What Causes Swelling in Arthritis?

There are two main reasons for you to develop swelling with arthritis.

  • You have to swell in the lining of your synovium joint.
  • You have increased synovial fluid volume.

With arthritis comes inflammation. When inflammatory cells, which are mostly white cells, and blood flow into the joint, small peptide proteins release in the soft tissues surrounding the joint. This blood flow increase causes you joint to feel warm and also swell. All of the inflammatory particles collect around your joint, which also contributes to swelling.

The extent of your joint swell depends on the type and severity of your arthritis. Twp of the most common types of arthritis that cause swelling are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis. Also, known as OA for short, osteoarthritis is the wear and tear form of arthritis. It may develop because of injury, but it commonly occurs with aging. With OA, the cushion, known as cartilage, at the end of your bones wear. Over time, this can lead to pain and joint swelling. You can develop osteoarthritis in many joints of the body, including the spine, hips, feet, and knees.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Also referred to as RA for short, this inflammatory type of arthritis can occur at any age, even in children. While RA can cause painful and stiff joints, it can also cause swollen joints, particularly in knees, feet, and hands. However, it can affect other joints. Swelling with RA can result in you having difficulty with range of motion and require hand treatment.

What about Gout?

You can experience gout with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Gout occurs when crystals of uric acid flow into joint tissue. It’s commonly found in the big toe, but it can happen in other joints, including those in the wrists, elbows, hands, knees, ankles and feet.


Applying cold therapy is the go-to treatment to reduce swelling in arthritic joints.  Not only can the cold help to tone down swelling, but it can help to reduce hand pain and inflammation as well.

While applying heat isn’t recommended for swollen, some patients are encouraged to use heat therapy before exercise or physical therapy to “warm up” the joint. Then, use cold therapy after exercise to reduce swelling. This alternating heat and cold therapy can be implemented several times per day.

If you are experiencing swelling, particularly in the hands, we encourage you to get a free hand screening at Florida Hand Center. Your hand screening occurs in our Fort Myers office with a quick one-on-one evaluation with Dr. Olarte or Dr. Helgemo. We encourage you to take advantage of this complimentary service today.