5 Things to Know About Lady Gaga's Case of Synovitis

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Superstar Lady Gaga once canceled a tour due to a joint condition called "synovitis," a condition that made most of us scratch our heads and ask "what's that?" Here are the basics to what sounds like a very painful condition.

What is synovitis?

Synovitis is the medical term for inflammation of the synovial membrane that lines joints. When this membrane is injured (due to overuse or another underlying condition), synovial fluid starts to build up, causing the joint to swell.

Is synovitis the same as arthritis?

Both arthritis and synovitis refer to joint inflammation, but synovitis describes prominent joint inflammation in the synovium (the thin layer of cells that lines our joints). With most types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, there is little if any synovial inflammation. Synovial inflammation, on the other hand, is a prominent symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.

What causes synovitis?

Synovitis has many possible causes, including infection, direct joint trauma, allergic reaction, gout, overuse syndromes, and systemic autoimmune inflammatory diseases. Synovitis can occur as an acute episode limited to one joint, or it can involve multiple joints and be a chronic symptom of a general disease process.

How is synovitis treated?

Synovitis is most often treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, cold or heat therapy, corticosteroid injections and rest from aggravating activity. Medication for pain control may be needed, as well as splinting to immobilize and support the joint. Once symptoms are stabilized, exercising the joint through rehab can help restore strength.

How is synovitis diagnosed?

Testing for synovitis is all about measuring inflammation. With most cases, joints will appear swollen, red, and warm to touch, and may have a "boggy" feel to them. The doctor will probably order lab tests to measure inflammation and to rule other causes, as well as an x-ray or MRI of the affected joint.