Infectious (Septic) Arthritis

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What is Infectious Arthritis?

Infectious arthritis refers to an infection of a joint. This condition is also known as septic arthritis. This happens when an infection from bacteria or viruses spreads to the joints or the fluid around the joints. The synovial fluid is this fluid. The infection typically begins in an area of the body, and then spreads to the joint tissues via the bloodstream. Injections, surgery, open wounds and surgery can also cause infection.

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Infectious arthritis is usually limited to one joint. Infectious arthritis usually affects one joint, such as the hip, knee, or shoulder. This condition is more common in older adults and those who have used illegal drugs.

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What are the symptoms of infectious arthritis?

The signs and symptoms of infectious arthritis vary depending on the age and medications you are taking. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain that gets worse with movement
  • Joint swelling
  • Warmth and redness around this joint
  • A fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • A decreased appetite
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irritability

What are the risk factors for infectious arthritis?

Some people are more susceptible to developing infectious arthritis than others. These risk factors are:

  • Joint problems, such as arthritis, gout or lupus, can cause joint pains.
  • A history of joint surgery
  • Certain skin conditions
  • having open wounds
  • Abusing illegal drugs and alcohol
  • Taking drugs that suppress your immune system
  • A weak immune system
  • Cancer treatment
  • Smoking
  • Having Diabetes

How is Infectious Arthritis diagnosed?

Your doctor will inspect your joint and ask questions about your symptoms. They may order further tests if they suspect that you have infectious arthritis.

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A test called arthrocentesis can be used to diagnose this condition. To collect synovial fluid, a needle is inserted into the affected joint. The lab will examine the sample for consistency and color as well as the presence of bacteria and white blood cells. This test will tell your doctor whether you have a joint infection and what the cause is.

To confirm infection, imaging tests may be ordered. These tests will also allow your doctor to determine if the infection has affected your joints. The following imaging tests are used to diagnose infectious arthritis:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scans
  • CT scans
  • Nuclear scans

How is Infectious Arthritis treated?

  • Prescription Drugs

Infectious arthritis is usually treated with antibiotics to kill bacteria. Your doctor will use information from your tests in order to determine the best antibiotic for your particular type of bacteria. To prevent osteoarthritis, and other joint damage, the infection must be treated quickly and aggressively. Your doctor may recommend intravenous antibiotics. These are administered through your veins. This treatment is more effective than oral antibiotics. Within 48 hours, most people feel better. If a fungus is the cause of your infection, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medication in lieu of antibiotics. Treatment for infectious arthritis due to a virus is not necessary.

  • Synovial Fluid Drainage

People with infectious arthritis will need to have their synovial fluid drain. This procedure is performed to drain the infected fluid, reduce pain and swelling, as well as prevent any further joint damage. It is possible to drain synovial fluid using arthroscopy.

Your doctor will make several small incisions around the affected joint during arthroscopy. They will then insert a small tube with a camera into each incision. The camera image will be used by your doctor to help them remove the infected fluid. To prevent the joint from swelling up again, a drain or tube is usually inserted. The drain is then taken out in a few days.

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  • Other Treatment Options

Infectious arthritis requires surgery to remove the infection. This can be done either via an open or arthroscopy. Sometimes, it is necessary to repair or remove damaged parts of the joint. However, this can only be done after the infection has been cleared.

You may also be able to use other methods to relieve the pain, in addition to treatment for the infection. These are:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Resting the joint
  • Splinting the affected joint
  • Going to physical therapy

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