Infectious arthritis

Infectious arthritis (septic arthritis) is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection inside a joint. The infection may be caused by an illness or may spread from an infection in a wound near a joint.

The large joints, such as the hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows, are most often affected. Infectious arthritis usually affects one joint, but it can affect many joints. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain with the slightest joint motion or pressure on the joint.
  • Fever and chills.
  • General weakness and headache.
  • Painful, red, swollen, and stiff joint.
  • Red streaks near the joint.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Immediate treatment with antibiotics and, possibly, surgical drainage of the affected joint can prevent the spread of the infection, the destruction of the joint, and even death.

Last Updated: November 13, 2008

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

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