Doctor Prepares an Antibiotic Treatment Using a Syringe

Unlike some forms of arthritis, septic arthritis has a very specific and well-known cause. Although known as infectious arthritis, this form of arthritis is marked by a painful infection in one of the body’s joints.1,2 Surveys show that at least 20,000 cases of this condition occur in the U.S. each year. However, certain types of people are more likely to develop this condition than others.3

In the paragraphs that follow, this article will cover the most important things to know about septic arthritis. This includes what the condition is, who it affects, what the symptoms are, and how people suffering from septic arthritis can find relief.

Causes of Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis is commonly caused by a fungus or bacteria and involves a joint that has become inflamed due to an infection.1,2,3 This condition most commonly affects a single large joint in the body, like a hip or knee. However, in some cases, septic arthritis affects more than one joint in the body.

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Bacteria can be spread through the bloodstream from an infected part of the body or from an open wound following surgery or injury.4 Staphylococcus and Streptococcus are common bacteria that can cause septic arthritis. Certain types of fungi, like Histoplasma and Blastomyces dermatitis, can also lead to infections that cause septic arthritis.5

Who Develops Septic Arthritis

Interestingly, infants and the elderly are the most common demographic groups that develop septic arthritis.2 People who have certain viruses are also more susceptible to this condition. These conditions include hepatitis A, B, and C, HIV, mumps, and herpes viruses.

Individuals who have weak immune systems, immune deficiency disorders, or who use drugs intravenously are also at risk. Other risk factors include having fragile skin, suffering a prior joint trauma, currently taking medications for rheumatoid arthritis, or having other existing joint problems.

Symptoms of Septic Arthritis

Unfortunately, the symptoms of septic arthritis are not only limited to joint pain and swelling.1,2 The pain in the affected joint is usually very severe and accompanied by warmth and redness in the joint due to the increase in blood flow. Also, accompanying symptoms include fatigue, chills, fever, and a lack of mobility in the affected joint. It is most common for septic arthritis to affect the knees, it is also possible in the hips, shoulders, and other joints.

Diagnosing and Treating Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis is typically diagnosed by conducting a procedure known as arthrocentesis, which involves drawing a sample of fluid from a joint for evaluation.6,7 X-rays will indicate if joint damage is present, and blood tests can help monitor inflammation levels.2,4

Physicians may recommend various types of treatment for this condition. Antibiotics are often used to kill the infection causing the joint pain, and the fluid can be drained from a joint to alleviate the pressure.2,7 Over-the-counter pain relief creams like JointFlex and oral medications may be recommended as well help reduce pain on an ongoing basis. But overall, it is crucial to see a doctor as soon as pain in a joint begins to minimize the risk of long-term joint damage.

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1. Infectious arthritis. MedlinePlus. Retrieved October 30, 2018 from
2. Schmitt, S. (2017 May). Septic arthritis. The Merck Manual: Consumer Version. Avoiding incorrect diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome. Rheumatology Network. Retrieved October 30, 2018 from,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders/bone-and-joint-infections/infectious-arthritis.
3. Cho, H. J. & Burke, L. A. (2017 October). Septic arthritis. Hospital Medicine Clinics, 3, 494-503. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from ResearchGate
4. Infectious arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved October 30, 2018 from
5. Cuéllar, M. L., Silveira, L. H., & Espinoza, L. R. (1992 May) Fungal arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 51, 690-697. Retrieved October 30, 2018 from National Center for Biotechnology Information
6. Cole, J. D. (2014 February 19). What is arthrocentesis? Arthritis Health. Retrieved October 30, 2018 from
7. Tupper, J. & Visser, S. (2009 April). Septic until proven otherwise. Canadian Family Medicine, 55, 374-375. Retrieved October 30, 2018 from National Center for Biotechnology Information