What Are Warm Joints?
your knees to your fingers to your elbows, there are a number of movable joints
in the body. Warm joints means one or more of your joints feels hot to the
touch or warmer than your surrounding skin.
that are warm are often uncomfortable because the warmth is accompanied by
swelling and redness. This and other symptoms can indicate a number of medical
conditions, including arthritis and injury.
What Causes Warm Joints?
Different forms of arthritis are the most common
causes of joints that feel warm. Two chief arthritis types exist: rheumatoid
arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).
RA is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune
system attacks the cells in your joints. RA can cause:
- joint swelling
- joints to feel warm
The hands and wrists are commonly affected
OA also causes joints to be warm. Unlike RA, OA
isn’t an autoimmune disorder. It’s a condition that happens when the cushioning
material between the joints starts to break down. This causes the following
symptoms in the joint or joints:
Commonly affected areas include the hips, knees, and
Arthritis-related conditions aren’t the only factors
that can cause your joints to be warm. Other conditions include:
- bursitis: a condition that affects the fluid-filled bursa sacs in the knee
a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body
- Lyme disease: a bacterial infection caused by a tick bite
- rheumatic fever: an inflammatory reaction to the bacteria that causes strep throat
- sickle cell disease: a group of disorders that affect the hemoglobin in
red blood cells
- tennis elbow: an overuse injury that affects the tendons that attach to your elbow
What Are the Symptoms of Warm Joints?
Joints that are warm will feel hotter to the touch
than the skin around them. The joints may appear swollen and red. They may feel
painful and uncomfortable.
When to Seek Medical Help
While joints that are warm rarely represent a medical
emergency, they can indicate an infection that leads to a form of arthritis
known as infectious or septic arthritis.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the
- broken areas of skin
- fast onset of joint pain
- intense pain
- sudden inability to move your joints freely
You should seek help when your joints are warm, especially if
your symptoms are uncomfortable or don’t go away after a few days.
How Are Warm Joints Diagnosed?
Your doctor will begin by taking a thorough health
history and listening to your symptoms. Questions your doctor may ask include,
“When did you first notice your symptoms?” and, “What makes your symptoms worse
Your doctor will physically examine your joints,
watch you move the affected joint, and touch the joints to determine a possible
source of pain and discomfort.
Your doctor may order several blood tests if they
suspect you may have RA. This includes testing your blood count for the
presence of rheumatoid factor, an antibody that people with RA have. In some
instances, your doctor may sample the synovial fluid around your joints. They’ll
use the fluid to test for the presence of bacteria, crystals, or a virus that
could cause your joints to be warm.
How Are Warm Joints Treated?
Once your doctor determines an underlying condition,
they may recommend treatments. Many treatments for warm joints can take place
at home. Examples include:
- applying cold or heat packs, depending on your
treatment goals. Cold packs can relieve inflammation while heat packs can
- eating a healthy diet to maintain a proper body
weight, which reduces pressure to your joints
- engaging in low-impact exercise, such as walking or
swimming. Only start an exercise program after talking to your doctor.
- taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs, which relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Examples
include acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- resting painful joints
Your doctor may prescribe medications if your pain is severe or
due to a medically treatable condition. For example, doctors often treat gout
with medications that reduce the amount of uric acid in your blood. This keeps
uric acid crystals from building up and causing your joints to be warm.
In addition to medications, your doctor might recommend invasive
treatments. This includes steroid injections to reduce inflammation. In some
instances, you may require surgery to repair a damaged joint.