What is hemarthrosis, and how does it affect you? Your joints do a lot of work. They help your entire skeletal system move and function properly. They are kind of like cogs in a well-running clock.
As long as they are meshing well, the clock works fine and you won’t even know the cogs are there. But, if a cog breaks a tooth or gets jammed somehow, you will know fairly quickly.
The same goes for your joints. Hemarthrosis is a condition that can cause joint pain and other issues, and it’s a problem that is more common than you might think. Think of this as a beginner’s guide to hemarthrosis. We’ll cover hemarthrosis definitions, hemarthrosis causes, and hemarthrosis symptoms, as well as treatment options.
So, what is hemarthrosis, and how can it make your joints feel bad? Simply put, hemarthrosis is when the blood vessels within your joints begin to bleed. It is surprisingly prevalent, especially in people who are rather active in their lives, like athletes. Left untreated, the bleeding can cause a number of issues, including pain and discomfort, as well as damage to the cartilage near the bleeding site. In the cases of hemophiliacs, hemarthrosis has the potential to cause death. Not particularly pleasant sounding, is it? But what can actually make your joints bleed? As it turns out, it’s really not that hard.
Causes of Hemarthrosis
So what can cause bleeding in your joints? As it turns out, many things. Your joints are incredibly well used and subjected to stressors every day. There are also some extenuating circumstances that can lead to bleeding in your joints. Some of the causes of hemarthrosis can include:
- Trauma or injury due to a sprain, fracture, or torn ligament
- Surgeries such as arthroscopic surgery
- Bleeding disorders like hemophilia
- Anticoagulant medications (blood thinners, anti-clotting drugs)
- Osteoarthritis (causes inflammation in your joints, which can lead to the wear and tear of cartilage)
- Certain cancers and tumors in the joints
- Now that you are aware of the causes, it may make spotting the symptoms a little bit easier.
What exactly would any bleeding into the joints symptoms entail? After all, the bleeding is happening under the skin, so how does one spot these symptoms? Luckily, in addition to the bleeding, there are a number of symptoms that may manifest themselves above the skin as well. The more common symptoms can include:
- Redness and/or bruising in and around the joint area
- Odd sensations like tingling, aching or bubbling at the joint
- Pain or tenderness in the joint area
- Swelling of the joint area
- Warmth in the joint and surrounding area
- Stiffness and decreased range of motion in the joint (you may have issues fully extending or flexing the joints and the body parts attached to them)
How Is Hemarthrosis Diagnosed?
Hemarthrosis diagnosis begins much the same way as most diagnoses. You head to your doctor’s office, where he or she will take note of your recent medical history—especially if there has been any past injury to the joints—as well as any medications you may be taking for other medical issues. Once the initial consultation is done, the doctor may proceed with a couple more tests.
1. Imaging Tests
An imaging test such as an ultrasound or an MRI may be used in order to take a deeper look at the area affected. The purpose of this test is to determine if there is any damage or anything else going wrong in that joint.
Aspiration requires the doctor to extract a sample of fluid from the joint for further testing.
Once a diagnosis has been made, the doctor will then recommend an appropriate treatment for your particular hemarthrosis issues.
How Is Hemarthrosis Treated?
You’ve been to the doctor, who told you that you are currently suffering from a bleeding joint. What is the next step? Oddly enough, many of your doctor’s recommendations for hemarthrosis treatment may be pretty easy to follow. The following are usually recommended, depending on how severe the hemarthrosis is.
Both one of easiest and hardest treatment solutions, depending on your lifestyle, rest of the joint may be all you need. In the case of some joints, like an elbow or a knee, a sling or brace might be advised to add support, as well as limit the amount of strain and movement that joint might be performing.
Contingent on your issue, you may be given medications to help clot the blood. If your blood within a joint is caused by a blood thinner, your doctor may recommend a smaller dosage or changing medications altogether.
In some extreme cases, surgery may be recommended to remove lining from the joint, or bone from near the affected joint.
4. Joint Replacement
More of an after-effect, depending on how long the joint bleeding has been going on and how much damage has been done, you may need the joint in question to be replaced.
Once the hemarthrosis has been dealt with, you will probably want to try a few things in the hopes of preventing it from occurring again as well as making sure that you heal properly.
How to Manage and Prevent Hemarthrosis
At this point, you’re probably wondering if there is a way to stop hemarthrosis from happening in the first place. There are a few things you can do that will help prevent hemarthrosis, or help you in the aftermath of dealing with it.
1. Learn Your Medications
This is a good idea in general: Take the time to learn about the medications that you are on, especially after you have dealt with a bout of hemarthrosis. Also, talk to your doctor about whether there are any medications you should avoid until you’re 100%.
2. Listen to Your Doctor
The biggest mistake you can make is rushing yourself back into your old set of routines, especially if we’re talking physical activities and or sports. Make sure to get the doctor’s advice on when you can safely return to these activities and how much you can handle in terms of sports and working out. If the doctor recommends going to physical therapy, then go to physical therapy.
Your compliance will hopefully lead to better health for your joints and the reduced chance of reoccurrence. You may have to be content with low-impact activities like swimming at first, but the last thing you want to do is start the bleeding again—and be off of your feet for even longer.
3. Ice Your Joints
If your joints are a little swollen after a game, ice them up. This can help stop tissue damage and reduce chances of your joints bleeding.
Listen to Your Joints!
The biggest thing you should take away from this article is to listen to your joints. If they need rest, let them rest a little. If they need ice, give them some ice. If they have tenderness and bruising that should have gone away by now, go see a doctor. When it comes to hemarthrosis, you don’t want to leave it for too long. The longer it goes on, the more damage it can do.
Eustice, C., “Hemarthrosis – Bleeding into a Joint,” Very Well, April 19, 2016; https://www.verywell.com/hemarthrosis-what-you-need-to-know-2552219, last accessed June 30, 2017.
Cafasso, J., “Hemarthrosis,” Healthline, June 14, 2017; http://www.healthline.com/health/hemarthrosis#causes3http://mddk.com/hemarthrosis.html, last accessed June 30, 2017.