Infectious arthritis, also known as septic arthritis, is an inflammatory and painful condition that anyone can get, though it is more common in people with weak immune systems or a chronic illness, such as diabetes.
Of the other 100 types of arthritis, only this one is short-term and curable, provided correct treatment is prompt. For this reason, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of septic arthritis and if you are more susceptible to this ailment based on your past and current medical diagnoses.
Septic arthritis may result if you have or develop a certain type of disease, infection or become exposed to specific bacteria, viruses or germs. For instance, if you have cancer, kidney disease, abnormal heart valves or abuse drugs or alcohol, you are more susceptible to an infection. Seniors, as well as infants, are also more prone to infections because they do not have strong immune systems. Individuals with other forms of arthritis or children with strep throat are also at risk for septic arthritis.
You may be a candidate for infectious arthritis if you recently had surgery, particularly if it was for joint replacement. The odds of developing this condition are minimal and can appear days or years after surgery. Specific medications, such as corticosteroids, a common treatment for arthritis, lower resistance and may increase your likelihood of getting an arthritic infection.
Additional risk factors include occupational hazards, such as working with marine life, landscaping, farming or nursing since all of these careers put you in contact with a variety of germs. However, this disease is not contagious and you cannot acquire it from someone who has it.
Infectious arthritis portrays itself quite similarly to rheumatoid arthritis, so if you have this condition, it is important to tell your health care provider immediately and not just assume it is another flare-up. In general, if you experience a sudden onset of swelling, pain, redness or warmth to just one joint, you need to see a doctor.
You may also experience red, quarter-sized bumps in the lower part of your legs, particularly if your infection originated from a fungus or if you have tuberculosis. In many cases a fever does develop, and in others inflammation in the ankle or other joints occurs.
Symptoms may also vary based on the underlying germ and if you have any pre-existing health conditions. For example, if you have gonorrhea or get infectious arthritis from the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, you may also experience genital discharge, chills and, if female, abdominal cramping. Pus that drains from a wound or abscess could indicate an arthritic staph infection, while a tick bite could result in Lyme disease, which is a type of septic arthritis.
The type of treatment you receive depends on what type of pathogen is causing your infection, but in most cases, a hospital stay is necessary. Once diagnosed, the health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if the infection came from bacteria, order bed rest and plenty of liquids if a virus is to blame or give an anti-fungal and possibly even perform surgery if fungus is the culprit.
The doctor is also likely to order anti-inflammatory and pain medications to make you more comfortable by treating the symptoms of the infection. Additionally, the infected joint usually requires drainage, which is not a surgical procedure, but it is invasive, uncomfortable, and your doctor may need to do it more than once.
Infectious arthritis is a painful condition that can easily spread to other parts of the body and become worse. If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important that you seek medical attention right away so you can obtain a diagnosis and begin treatment. An early diagnosis prevents the spread of the infection and increases your chance for a speedy recovery with little to no permanent damage.
Common Locations for Infection-Related Arthritis
Knee Arthritis - the symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe pain, while treatment varies from suggestions drug regimens to weight loss or even full joint replacement.
Hip Arthritis - The hip pain from this type of arthritis may be mild, treatable with ice packs or crippling pain that requires surgical replacement of the hip joint as the only option.
Shoulder Arthritis - usually associated with joint damage, that leads to other types of arthritis such as rheumatoid, osteo or post-traumatic arthritis.
Hand Arthritis - can make opening a can, buttoning a shirt, or just doing most every day activities extremely difficult.
Foot Arthritis - presents with the typical arthritic symptoms, such as pain, swelling, inflammation and difficulty with movement.