Doctors decide on treatment for water on the elbow, also known as bursitis, by determining whether it is infected and whether it improves with the removal of the fluid, states the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Treatments also depend on what caused the bursitis.
Doctors decide treatment for bursitis by first exploring the cause of the condition, such as whether it is due to trauma or an infection, explains the AAOS. If an infection is the culprit, a doctor generally drains the fluid, then uses it to determine which antibiotics to prescribe. If the bursitis is not caused by an infection, but from prolonged pressure put on the elbow, the doctor is likely to suggest that the patient wear elbow pads, take anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications, and avoid leaning on the affected area.
If bursitis does not resolve or improve after nonsurgical treatments, a doctor recommends surgery, says the AAOS. In these cases, the entire bursa is removed. Bursa are sacs that rest around the joints in the arms and legs to help them move with ease, explains the Herald-Tribune. These bursa are normally filled with fluid, but during bursitis, the sacs become inflamed, swell and become filled with extra fluid. This causes pain and discomfort.