Septic Arthritis – Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Septic arthritis

Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention. When you have septic arthritis, you may be experiencing pain and discomfort in your body. This is because of the infection that you have. The good news is that there are ways to prevent this condition from happening to you.


Unlike most other types of arthritis, septic arthritis is caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The symptoms include joint pain, fever, redness, and swelling. Some patients may experience chills and nausea.

The bacteria or virus that causes septic arthritis may enter the joint through the bloodstream or through an open wound. It is most common in the joints of the elbow and shoulder. However, it can also occur in other joints. Typically, the infection starts in one joint and spreads to the other.

X-rays and CT scans can help your physician identify the type of bacterium causing your septic arthritis. This information can help your doctor choose the best treatment for your condition. You may be prescribed antibiotics that are designed to kill specific bacteria. These antibiotics are given through a vein, usually in your arm.

Another type of test, called an arthroscopy, involves inserting a thin metal tube into the joint. This allows your physician to drain the infected joint fluid and prevent further damage.


During the course of infectious arthritis, harmful pathogens are introduced into the joint space. These pathogens multiply rapidly, causing severe inflammation. They can also lead to joint damage and tissue destruction.

A standard diagnostic strategy involves laboratory testing, such as a gram stain, white blood cell count, and culture of synovial fluid. The results of these tests are helpful in identifying the bacteria and viruses that are causing the joint infection.

X-rays of the affected joint can also help identify the cause of septic arthritis. X-rays can be used to look at the bones adjacent to the joint, as well as the soft tissues and joint spaces. In addition, an ultrasound can help the healthcare provider see the joints and joint fluid.

Septic arthritis can be treated with antibiotics, either in pill form or intravenously. The appropriate antibiotics will maintain joint integrity and ensure rapid clearing of the infection. Depending on the nature of the infection, it may be necessary to repeat the course of antibiotics.


Various conditions can increase your risk of developing septic arthritis. These include joint replacement, joint injury, and underlying medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease.

Septic arthritis is a form of arthritis caused by bacteria or fungi. When bacteria or fungi enter the joint, the immune system overreacts, causing inflammation. Infection can cause permanent bone damage.

A doctor may diagnose septic arthritis by looking at the fluid in the joint. A sample is taken and sent to the laboratory for evaluation. The lab tests the sample to determine the bacteria present and whether the immune system is responding to the infection. If the immune system is responding to the infection, the sample will show an elevated white blood cell count. Occasionally, a synovial biopsy may be required. If the biopsy shows that the disease is bacterial, the sample will be cultured. This will help identify the specific pathogen.

If the culture shows that the joint is infected, the doctor will begin treatment with antibiotics. Treatment typically lasts four to six weeks. Antibiotics are given either orally or intravenously.


Fortunately, there are several preventative measures you can take to prevent septic arthritis. You can also treat septic arthritis when it occurs. The treatment is determined by the type of bacteria that is causing the infection.

People who have a weakened immune system are more likely to contract septic arthritis. Other factors that may increase the risk of septic arthritis include joint trauma, underlying medical conditions, and intravenous drug abuse. If you have any of these risk factors, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

The first treatment option is to immobilize the affected joint to minimize the possibility of further damage. Your healthcare provider may recommend physical therapy to help you recover. This can include gentle mobilization of the infected joint.

Your healthcare provider can test for bacteria in your joint fluid. They may use a needle to aspirate the fluid and check for white blood cells. The fluid will then be analyzed in a laboratory.

More about Septic Arthritis on Mayo clinic.

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