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What is going on in the body?
bursa are fluid-filled sacs that act like cushions. They keep tendons and bones from rubbing against each other. bursa are found in places like the shoulder, hips, knees and ankles. Bursitis occurs when bursa sacs become inflamed. Usually this happens if the bursa or tendon is over-used.

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
Bursitis causes pain and tenderness around the affected bone and tendon. This makes it hard to move this part of the body. Sometimes the bursa sacs fill with fluid when inflamed, which causes swelling over the bony part of the body. Fever may indicate another problem, such as joint infection or infection of the skin.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Bursitis is caused when the bursa sac of a particular set of bones and tendons becomes inflamed, usually due to overuse. Sometimes trauma to a bursa will cause bursitis. bursa can become infected, although this is not common.

What can be done to prevent the disease?
Cushioning the part of the body affected or using stretching and warming exercises prior to exercise can sometimes prevent bursitis. Using a soft mattress cover or foam mattress can help prevent bursitis of the outer hip region.

How is the disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis of bursitis is made by physical examination and history. The injured bursa will be tender when moved or pressed on. Occasionally redness or warmth can be felt over the affected area.

X rays and blood work are generally not done unless an infection is suspected. If so, a needle can be placed into the bursa to obtain fluid. This is sent for analysis to rule out infection and to confirm the diagnosis.

What are the long-term effects of the disease?
Bursitis can become chronic causing scarring of the bursa and a limited range of motion.

What are the risks to others?
Bursitis is not contagious and does not put others at risk.

What are the treatments for the disease?
Treatments include rest, icing the affected bursa, and using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or other pain relievers. If this does not work, an injection of steroids, such as cortisone, into the affected bursa can provide dramatic relief. To do this, the area of skin over the bursa is sterilised with a cleaning solution and a small needle is placed into the bursa, releasing steroids and numbing medication. After a few days the steroids will calm the inflammation, relieving the pain and improving range of motion.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Some people cannot take anti-inflammatory drugs since they can irritate the stomach and, if taken on a regular basis, can produce stomach ulcers.

Injections are usually well tolerated, but should not be given to anyone allergic to steroids or local anaesthetic like lignocaine. Injections can cause infection or bleeding, although this is rare. People on blood thinners, such as warfarin or aspirin, should talk to their doctors before having a steroid injection.

What happens after treatment for the disease?
After an injection, people should rest and apply ice to the affected bursa. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be taken along with the steroid injection to help relieve pain and swelling. As the bursitis resolves, people may return to their former activities. But, this can cause the bursitis to recur if it is done too soon.

How is the disease monitored?
The disease is monitored by physical examination.

Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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