Bursitis

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Overview

Bursitis is an inflammation in one of the small, fluid-filled sacs (bursae) often found near joints in the body. It can be very painful and limit mobility. The inflammation can result when too much pressure is put on one of these sacs (a bursa).


The bursae (Latin for bags) are made of connective tissue and filled with synovial fluid. Like tiny pillows, they cushion parts of the body like the elbows, which are often exposed to friction or pressure. When you prop your elbows on a hard tabletop, the bursa prevents the bone from pressing too hard against your skin. There are over one hundred bursae in the human body, many of them near joints.


Bursitis can also be caused by a – usually bacterial – infection.

Symptoms

If a bursa becomes inflamed, more fluid will build up inside it than usual. Doctors call this effusion. This leads to swelling that you can feel and see from the outside – especially if the inflamed bursa is right under the skin.


Illustration: Healthy and inflamed elbow bursa

Healthy and inflamed elbow bursa


The swollen area hurts when resting, but is especially painful when moved or when pressure is put on it from the outside. It sometimes looks red and feel warm too. You may also develop a fever and generally feel unwell.

Disabling joint pain.

Sudden inability to move a joint.

Excessive swelling, redness, bruising or a rash in the affected area.

Sharp or shooting pain, especially when you exercise or exert yourself.

A fever.

Pain.

Localized tenderness.

Limited motion.

Swelling and redness if the inflamed bursa is close to the surface of the skin.

Causes

The most common causes of bursitis are repetitive motions or positions that put pressure on the bursae around a joint. Examples include: Throwing a baseball or lifting something over your head repeatedly. Leaning on your elbows for long periods.

The most common causes of bursitis are injury or overuse. Infection may also cause it. Bursitis is also associated with other problems. These include arthritis, gout, tendonitis, diabetes, and thyroid disease.


Risk factors

The most common causes of bursitis are repetitive motions or positions that put pressure on the bursae around a joint. Examples include: Throwing a baseball or lifting something over your head repeatedly. Leaning on your elbows for long periods.

Older age.

Jobs or hobbies that involve repetitive tasks (such as sports, manual labor, or music).

Conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, gout or thyroid disease.

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Complications

Complications of bursitis may include: Chronic pain: Untreated bursitis can lead to a permanent thickening or enlargement of the bursa, which can cause chronic inflammation and pain. Muscle atrophy: Long term reduced use of joint can lead to decreased physical activity and loss of surrounding muscle.

The damage is permanent. In most cases, bursitis is short-term irritation. It doesn't create long-lasting damage unless you continue to stress the area.

Prevention

Warm up before exercising or before sports or other repetitive movements.

Start new exercises or sports slowly. ...

Take breaks often when doing repetitive tasks.

Cushion “at risk” joints by using elbow or knee pads.

Stop activities that cause pain.

Practice good posture.