Knee bursitis is inflammation of the bursa that is found between the front of the kneecap (patella) and the skin. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that operates as a gliding surface to minimize friction between moving tissues of the body and includes areas between two bones, between a tendon or ligament and a bone, and between bone and skin such as elbows, knees, shoulders, and hips.
Knee bursitis is usually not infectious but the bursa can become infected. The most common cause of knee bursitis is direct trauma to the front of the knee and occurs from prolonged periods of kneeling. Knee bursitis is often referred to as “roofer’s knee”, “housemaid’s knee”, and “carpet layer’s knee”. Knee bursitis may also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis and from deposits of crystals as seen in individuals with pseudogout and gouty arthritis.
Bursitis can lead to varying degrees of tenderness, swelling, warmth, and redness in the overlying area of the knee. It is usually mildly painful and is mostly associated with increased pain when kneeling and can cause pain and stiffness with walking.
Treatment will depend on whether or not there is an infection.
Aseptic prepatellar bursitis can be treated with rest, ice compresses, and anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Sometimes treatment requires aspiration of the bursa fluid which involves using a needle and syringe under sterile conditions in a doctor’s office. If there is no infection knee bursitis may also be treated with an injection of cortisone into the swollen bursa.