Swollen Knuckle

There are many reasons that can lead to the problem of swollen knuckle including osteoarthritis, injury, and inflammatory arthritis such as RA etc. If you develop a swollen knuckle, then the swelling is an indication that there is an underlying problem that requires diagnosis and treatment so that your knuckle can become normal again.

Causes and Symptoms of Swollen Knuckle

Knuckle Injury

Injury to a knuckle is a very frequent cause that can lead to symptoms of swelling, pain, redness and stiffness of the affected knuckle. In some cases the tissues surrounding the knuckle are also torn and injured leading to strains, sprains, dislocations or even fractures.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs due to wear and tear of the joints. In OA the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones forming a joint is worn out leading to symptoms of pain and swelling in the affected knuckle.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can occur in any individual irrespective of age- even young children can suffer from the disease. The affected knuckle becomes swollen, painful and stiff with restriction of movement and may interfere with normal activities of daily living.

Gout Arthritis

Gout arthritis occurs when uric acid levels are increased in the body leading to deposition of uric acid crystals in the joints-leading to inflammation. There may be a sudden attack of gouty arthritis and the affected knuckle becomes inflamed, red, hot, swollen and extremely tender.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is also a type of inflammatory arthritis that is often linked to psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis occurs in approximately 5-23% of individuals suffering from psoriasis. It is also associated with symptoms of swelling of joints, pain and stiffness.

Infectious Arthritis

Infectious arthritis is a condition that occurs when the tissues and fluids of a joint are infected by a bacterium, virus or a fungus. The most common bacteria that cause infectious arthritis include Staphylococcus aureus and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Due to infection in the joint, the patient develops pain, inflammation, and swelling of the joint and fever.

Remedies for Swollen Knuckle

There is not a single treatment strategy that is applied to all cases of swollen knuckle and treatment depends on the cause of the problem.

Heat or Ice Pack

The swelling and pain of the affected knuckle can be eased by the application of heat or ice pack. Heat or ice pack can be used in association with other treatments such as NSAIDs, antibiotics, steroid medicines etc.


Antibiotics are given to treat the symptoms of swollen joint and pain associated with infectious arthritis.

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) are used to treat the swelling, and pain associated with osteoarthritis and injury to a joint. In such cases, applying heat or ice pack is also helpful in relieving the pain and swelling of a joint.

Steroid Medications

Steroids are also used to treat the swelling and pain of a joint as they inhibit the secretion of inflammatory chemicals in the body. They are usually taken for a short duration either orally or injected directly into the swollen joint.

Anti-inflammatory Drug Injection

Anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids may be injected directly into the swollen joint to provide temporary relief from the symptoms.

Disease-modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARDs are the newer drugs that are used to treat symptoms of inflammatory arthritis such as RA and psoriatic arthritis. They work by altering the functioning of the immune system.

Biologic Agents

Biologic agents include tumor necrosis factor inhibitors that are also used to treat the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis including RA and psoriatic arthritis. They also work by altering the functioning of the immune system.


Colchicine is a drug that is used to treat symptoms of acute gouty arthritis. It helps in relieving the symptoms of swelling, pain and inflammation of the affected knuckle.


In some cases when all the above mentioned treatments are not successful in relieving the symptoms, surgery may be needed.