Olecranon bursitis is an elbow condition that causes pain, swelling, and redness in the tip of the elbow. The tip of the elbow houses the olecranon bursa. A bursa is a thin sac filled with fluid. There are many bursae distributed throughout the body. Bursae provide cushioning between bones and soft tissues. The fluid within the bursae has a lubricating effect that allows the soft tissues to glide easily over bone. The olecranon is naturally filled with some fluid, however, if it becomes irritated or injured, more fluid can build up within it.
What Causes Olecranon Bursitis?
There are many causes of olecranon bursitis, including trauma, repetitive pressure, some underlying conditions, and infection. Suffering a hard blow to the tip of the elbow or resting the elbow on hard surfaces for extended periods of time can irritate the olecranon. Health conditions, such as arthritis and gout, can also irritate joints, such as the elbow. Finally, an injury to the tip of the elbow, such as a cut, scrape, wound, or insect bite, can infect the bursa, causing it to produce and retain fluid. If the infection becomes serious, the fluid can become pus.
By far, the most common symptom of olecranon bursitis is swelling in the tip of the elbow. You will notice a significant sized bulge protruding at or just above the tip of the elbow. This can restrict the movement of your elbow significantly. Another common symptom is pain, which worsens as the swelling increases or when you bend the elbow. Finally, you may experience redness or a warm sensation in the area. This is particularly true if the cause of the olecranon bursitis is an infection.
Diagnosing olecranon bursitis is pretty easy. A doctor does so through a physical examination (checking for signs of swelling and discussing your symptoms) as well as diagnostic testing. Your doctor may recommend an x-ray to check for a bone spur or a foreign body in the elbow that could be causing the protrusion or a fluid test to check if the swelling is caused by an infection.
If olecranon bursitis is not caused by an infection, it is commonly treated through rest. An elbow pad can help cushion the elbow from exposure to hard surfaces. A change to activities to reduce pressure on the elbow can also help. Finally, anti-inflammatory medications can reduce pain symptoms and inflammation temporarily as the elbow heals.
If these measures do not help, the fluid within the bursa may need to be removed and a corticosteroid injection delivered into it.
If the olecranon bursitis is caused by an infection, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat it. If antibiotics and draining the bursa do not work, it may be necessary to surgically remove the bursa.
Olecranon Bursitis Treatment in San Antonio, Texas
The orthopedic experts at Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine treat all types of injuries and conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, including olecranon bursitis. If you have a condition or injury that needs treatment, we would love to help you find relief.
Call (210) 692-7400 to make an appointment. You can also request an appointment online.