What is Synovitis?

Synovitis is the inflammation and swelling of the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints, bursae (fluid-filled sacs between tendons and bones) and tendon sheaths (the coverings that protect tendons). When the synovium becomes irritated and inflamed, it produces excess joint fluid, causing swelling and pain. Synovitis can affect any joint or tendon in the body, but is most commonly found in the knees, elbows, wrists, hips, and shoulders.

Causes of Synovitis

In some cases, the cause of synovitis is unknown. However, it is often caused by:

  • Injury or trauma to the joint
  • Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus
  • Infection, such as bacterial and viral infections

Symptoms of Synovitis

The main symptom of synovitis is joint pain and swelling. Other symptoms may include:

  • Joint stiffness
  • Redness
  • Warmth around the joint
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Tenderness or pain when touching the joint
  • Difficulty walking or putting weight on the joint

Diagnosis of Synovitis

Your doctor will diagnose synovitis based on your symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination. In some cases, imaging tests may be used to diagnose the condition, such as X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound. Your doctor may also send samples of joint fluid to the lab to be tested for infection or inflammation.

Treatment of Synovitis

The treatment for synovitis depends on the cause, but generally includes:

  • Resting the affected joint. This allows the inflammation to subside and the joint to heal.
  • Using ice packs or heat to reduce inflammation.
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Using physical therapy, including exercises and stretching, to improve range of motion and relieve pain.
  • If the condition is caused by an infection, taking antibiotics to clear up the infection.
  • In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair any damage to the joint.