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News Letter

Infectious or Septic Arthritis Print E-mail


Infectious arthritis, also known as septic arthritis, is produced by an infection. Unlike other types of arthritis, infectious arthritis is generally curable if treated promptly and properly. Without proper treatment, infectious arthritis can result in serious joint damage and may spread to other parts of the body.

Any age group, including newborns and children, can contract infectious arthritis. Infectious arthritis is not contagious.


The leading cause of infectious arthritis is bacterial infection, such as gonococcus, tuberculosis, certain bacteria like staphylococcus and salmonella, and spirochetes such as Lyme disease and syphilis.

Infectious arthritis can also be caused by a viral infection. Infectious hepatitis, mumps, and infectious mononucleosis are viral infections that can lead to a short bout of infectious arthritis. Generally, the joint inflammation lasts no more than one to two weeks.

Fungi are the least common cause of infectious arthritis. Arthritis produced by a fungus usually develops very slowly. Types of fungi producing arthritis are usually found in soil, bird droppings, and certain plants especially roses. Chicken farmers and gardeners are particularly susceptible to this type of arthritis.

Anyone can get infectious arthritis. People who have a suppressed immune system caused by other diseases such as diabetes, sickle cell anemia, or severe kidney disease, or who have jobs involving contact with animals, plants, soil, or marine life have a greater chance of developing the condition.


Infectious arthritis can occur suddenly, or in some instances, the condition may take up to two weeks before symptoms appear. Typically only one joint is affected, particularly the larger joints of the shoulders, hips, and knees.

Symptoms include joint swelling, soreness, tissue fluid leakage, and the joints feeling warm to the touch. In most cases, the patient will have fever and chills. Children sometimes develop nausea and vomiting.

Bacterial, viral and fungal infections are different from each other in the following ways:

Bacterial infection

  • Generally located in one place or area
  • Usually accompanied by fever and shaking chills
  • Usually begins quite suddenly

Viral infection

  • Ache all over
  • Usually mild or no fever

Fungal infection

  • May be in one area or throughout the body
  • May have low grade fever or none at all
  • Usually begins quite slowly, over weeks or months


Antibiotics often help patients whose infectious arthritis is caused by bacteria. Antibiotics will usually destroy an infection in a few days or weeks. In some cases, it can take several months. In all cases, it is extremely important for patients to follow their doctor's orders and finish their prescription.

Infectious arthritis caused by a virus runs its course then goes away. This is fortunate because there are no effective medications to fight against a viral infection. Bed rest and plenty of liquids are usually recommended.

Fungal infections are often the most difficult to treat and eliminate. Doctors can prescribe a fungus-fighting medication, but these may be needed for months. At times, surgery to drain fluid from the joint may be performed. Even after successful treatment, infectious arthritis may recur.

Anti-inflammatory and pain relievers may also be prescribed. Other treatments may include protecting the joints with splints to help reduce pain and tissue damage. After the infection is gone, the doctor will frequently recommend exercises to increase muscle strength and range of motion.


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