• Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

View the Gout Slideshow

When to Seek Medical Care

Because bursitis can be infectious and needs to be treated with antibiotics, it is best to see a doctor the first time you recognize symptoms.

If the pain is not getting better with home care, your doctor may be able to offer some alternatives such as a cortisone injection.

Fever is a definite sign to seek immediate medical care because it may signify infection. Heed other warning signs of infection such as constant warmth or redness around the joint or severe tenderness. Skin infections around the area (cellulitis) may mean that the bursa is infected as well.

Bursitis Diagnosis

  • History: The doctor will usually take a detailed history about the onset of symptoms and will want to know what movement or activity makes you feel more or less pain. You will need to report other medical problems you may have.
  • Fluid removal: The doctor may remove fluid from the bursa with a needle and send it to the lab for analysis. This analysis will help determine if the bursitis is due to an infection or rheumatoid condition or trauma). Bursitis in the knee and elbow are especially prone to infection.
  • X-rays: They are usually not helpful, but the doctor may get them if any other disease is suspected such as a fracture or dislocation. MRI and CT scans are obtained only to exclude other causes.
  • Blood testing: The doctor may order blood tests to rule out infection or other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2015

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