Dr. Carlos Rebollón
Schedule an Appointment
Inflammation of the elbow can be caused by a variety of reasons and is a condition characterized by pain and dysfunction of the arm. Here are some key details to help you recognize the causes of a swollen and red elbow.
What is elbow inflammation?
Elbow inflammation is the body’s response to injury, disease, or irritation. The purpose of inflammation is to combat the underlying cause of the problem and facilitate healing. Elbow inflammation is characterized by signs such as swelling, redness, heat, and pain in the affected area.
Most common types of elbow inflammation
The types of inflammation vary depending on the cause. In this regard, we can identify the following:
Acute inflammation of the elbow refers to sudden and short-lived inflammation in the elbow. It is usually caused by injuries, blows, or direct trauma to the elbow. Acute elbow inflammation can also arise from an infection or as part of an inflammatory disease.
Chronic inflammation of the elbow tends to develop gradually and can last for several weeks or months. This inflammation can be caused by a variety of conditions, including tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, autoimmune diseases like lupus, as well as strain or repetitive injury to the joint.
Causes of elbow inflammation
The causes of elbow inflammation are diverse and may include:
Symptoms accompanying elbow swelling
Among the signs that frequently accompany elbow inflammation are:
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR FOR ELBOW INFLAMMATION?
It is important to seek medical attention for elbow inflammation when:
DIAGNOSIS OF ELBOW INFLAMMATION
The diagnosis of elbow inflammation is usually based on physical examination and the patient’s symptoms. However, in more complex cases, the doctor may request additional tests to help determine the underlying cause of the inflammation. These tests may include:
X-rays can be helpful in determining if there is any damage to the bones of the elbow causing the inflammation.
Ultrasound can show if there is swelling or fluid in the elbow, which is common in cases of elbow tendinitis or bursitis.
MRI (MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING) MRI
Provides detailed images of the tissues of the elbow and is often used to diagnose elbow arthritis or other soft tissue injuries.
Blood tests help rule out autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus), which tend to cause inflammation in the joints.
Treatment for elbow inflammation
Treatment for elbow inflammation can range from conservative options to surgical techniques (depending on the cause of the swollen and red elbow). Some of the most commonly used treatments include:
Rest, compression and elevation
Resting the affected arm and elbow is essential to allow the inflammation to decrease. Applying compression and elevating the elbow above the level of the heart reduces swelling by reducing blood flow to the affected area.
Applying ice to the elbow is an effective method to reduce inflammation and joint pain.
Pain-relieving and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are part of the initial treatment for swollen and red elbow.
Physical therapy can help increase the strength, flexibility, and function of the elbow through special exercises.
In some cases, doctors may recommend steroid injections to quickly control inflammation and pain.
In severe or persistent cases of elbow inflammation, surgery may be necessary to repair any damage to the internal tissues.