Strong Aspirations

When your joints swell, a diagnostic tool is also part of the treatment

It often happens overnight—you go to bed with two normal knees but in the morning one of them looks like a balloon. Or your big toe has doubled in size. To make matters worse, it’s quite painful. The culprit could likely be gout, which is a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints.

Dr. Steven Greer

To confirm the problem, physicians like Steven Greer, MD, of St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Physician Network – Bone, Joint & Muscle Care, will aspirate, or draw out, the fluid that is causing the swelling with a needle.

“There are a few reasons why a joint, like in the knee, would swell up,” Dr. Greer says. “The aspiration will let us know if it is due to an injury, an infection or from the crystals that build up and cause gout.”

Dr. Greer will send the fluid he aspirates to the lab to confirm a diagnosis. He may additionally give the patient an injection to relieve pain. Patients notice that with the fluid now gone, they can return to their full range of motion.

“If your body perceives an injury, it sends healing cells to that area through this fluid,” Dr. Greer explains. “Which is useful to a point, but the change in volume can alter the mechanics of your tendons. If it stays swollen long enough, it can alter your gait. Then your gait can cause ankle, knee or back problems.”

With the aspiration and injection taking away both the swelling and the pain, patients will get their regular movement back.

“The swelling could have you hobbling into my office with a lot of pain,” Dr. Greer says. “But with the aspiration getting rid of the fluid, and also letting us know the source the problem so we can treat it, you’ll soon be walking just fine.”

St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Physician Network – Bone, Joint & Muscle Care is located on St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Pooler Campus. Dr. Greer is board certified in both family medicine and sports medicine. He offers diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions in all ages and all levels of activity. To learn more, call 912-737-2450 or click here.

To learn more about gout, take our quiz.

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