Septic Arthritis

What is Septic Arthritis?

Septic arthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the body. It is often also referred to as infectious arthritis because in contrast to other types of arthritis, it is caused by an infection in the body. Usually, septic arthritis is caused by either a fungus or bacteria.

Septic arthritis is an inflammatory condition that occurs when an infection gets into the bloodstream and travels to the joint. Septic arthritis can occur due to a commonly transmitted infection (without any significant trauma to the body) and travel to the joint or could occur following an injury or surgery on the joint such as knee or hip surgery.

The knee is one of the joints in the body most commonly affected by this type of arthritis. Usually septic arthritis only affects one joint. However, there are some cases in which multiple joints are affected.

In addition to bacterial and fungal infections, viral infections can also cause septic arthritis, including the herpes virus, HIV, mumps, hepatitis a, b, or c, and adenovirus. Both adults and children can suffer from septic arthritis. If this infection affects children, it is usually in the hip joint and in children under the age of three.

What are the Symptoms of Septic Arthritis?

Severe pain in one or multiple joints is the most common symptom of septic arthritis. This pain can be so severe that it makes it impossible for the person with the condition to move the limb or bend at that joint. For babies, this can mean that they cry or scream any time the joint is moved or weight or pressure gets put on it. Swelling and redness in the joint can also be a common sign of this condition. The area around the joint may also be warm to the touch and the person may have a fever.

Septic Arthritis Causes

Septic arthritis occurs when an infection enters into a person’s bloodstream and reaches their joints. The most common cause of septic arthritis is a bacterial infection; however, the illness can also be caused by a viral infection or, less, often a fungal infection.

The infection enters the person’s bloodstream through some kind of entryway – an open wound which often may be the site of a drug injection or another site which allows for access into the person’s body. The bacteria may be passed on through sexual intercourse. Because the synovium – the lining of a person’s joints – is very capable or effective at protecting itself from infection, the body will often respond to the event with a negative or adverse reaction, which can lead to further harm to the person’s joints due to the infection.

The most common bacterial causes of septic arthritis are staphylococcus, Haemophilus influenza, and Streptococcus. Viral causes of this particular form of arthritis include:

  • Hepatitis A, B, and C
  • Parvovirus B19
  • Herpes viruses
  • HIV (AIDS virus)
  • HTLV-1
  • Adenovirus
  • Coxsackie viruses
  • Mump

Certain risk factors render an individual more likely or susceptible to developing the illness. A compromised immune system is a big risk factor – for example, a person with diabetes, or an autoimmune deficiency disorder. Additionally, previous joint problems and joint trauma render someone more likely to develop septic arthritis.

How is Septic Arthritis Treated?

If the infection causing septic arthritis is bacterial, antibiotics will be required to clear up the infection. Draining the infected fluid from a person’s joint is also quite important. This can be accomplished through needle aspiration, open surgery, or laproscopically depending on the joint affected.

Septic Arthritis Prevention

It is not necessarily possible to prevent septic arthritis, although there are ways that a person may reduce the likelihood of developing the illness. Reducing one’s risk factors as much one is able is a good way to guard against septic arthritis. In many cases, septic arthritis occurs as a result of illegal drug use; as such, avoiding contact with illegal drugs, especially those which are intravenous can greatly decrease one’s vulnerability to developing the illness. Strengthening one’s immune system as much as is possible, as well as caring for one’s joints, may help decrease someone’s vulnerability to septic arthritis. Additionally, because septic arthritis requires a point of entry into the bloodstream, minimizing any open wounds or points of internal contact can help in guarding against septic arthritis.