What is infectious arthritis?

Infectious arthritis affects the fluid and tissues of a joint usually by bacteria but also by fungi or viruses. There are 2 types of infectious arthritis – acute and chronic.


Acute infectious arthritis is triggered by bacteria that rapidly begins and responsible for most cases. It can affect healthy individuals as well as those who are high risk. The cartilage inside the joint might be destroyed or damaged within hours or days.

Oftentimes, arthritis develops among those who have infections that do not involve the joints or bones such as infections of the digestive organs or genital organs.


The chronic type starts gradually over several weeks and often affects individuals who are at high risk. The joints typically infected are the shoulder, knee, shoulder, elbow, hip and finger joints.

What are the possible causes?

Infectious arthritis

The infected joint becomes increasingly sore and oftentimes reddened and warm. Moving or touching the joint can cause pain.

Infectious organisms mainly bacteria spread to the joint from a nearby infection or via the bloodstream. The joint can be infected directly if it is contaminated during surgery or by an infection or injury.

Various bacteria can infect the joint but bacteria are likely to cause infection depending on the age of the individual. There are several risk factors for infectious arthritis and most children who develop the condition do not have identified risk factors.

Risk factors


  • Artificial joint or joint surgery
  • History of joint infection
  • Chronic conditions
  • Using needles to inject drugs
  • Alcoholism
  • Older age
  • Skin infections
  • Behaviors that increases the risk for sexually transmitted diseases
  • Infection that reaches the bloodstream
  • Disorders that lead to constant joint damage
  • Hemophilia
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Those who are undergoing dialysis treatment


What are the symptoms?

In an acute case of infectious arthritis, the symptoms typically start over hours up to a few days. The infected joint becomes increasingly sore and oftentimes reddened and warm. Moving or touching the joint can cause pain.

Fluid accumulates in the affected joint which causes it to swell and turn rigid. The symptoms oftentimes include fever and chills.

For the chronic type, the symptoms include gradual swelling, minimal warmth, redness of the joint and aching pain that is mild and less intense than an acute type. In most instances, only one joint is involved. If the infection lasts long and does not go away after using the commonly used antibiotics, it might be due to fungi or mycobacteria.



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