Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Pain medications and procedures to remove fluid from the knee joint reduce the symptoms of water on the knee. Treatment varies for diseases and conditions causing water on the knee, but depending on the severity of the swelling and your medical history, options may include:


Drugs used to treat the symptoms or underlying causes of water on the knee include:

  • Pain medications. If over-the-counter pain medications don't work well enough, your doctor may prescribe stronger drugs to help control your pain.
  • Antibiotics. If your symptoms are being caused by an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection.
  • Corticosteroids. These strong anti-inflammatory drugs, such as prednisone, can be taken orally or may be injected directly into your knee joint. Corticosteroids can cause serious side effects, so you shouldn't use them too often or for a very long period of time.

Surgical and other procedures

Minimally invasive surgery and other methods of treating water on the knee and its most common underlying causes include:

  • Joint aspiration (arthrocentesis). Removing fluid from your knee joint can help relieve the pressure of joint fluid buildup. After aspirating joint fluid, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid into the joint to treat inflammation.
  • Arthroscopy. During this procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision in the skin over your knee joint, then inserts a small, lighted tube (arthroscope) that sends real-time images of the inside of your knee to a video terminal. Your surgeon may also use small, precise tools — sometimes placed in the joint through an attachment to the arthroscope — to remove loose tissue or repair damage in your knee.
  • Joint replacement. If bearing weight on your knee joint becomes intolerable, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for knee replacement.
June 16, 2012

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.