Infectious Arthritis

Most kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints.

Most kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Infectious arthritis is an infection in the joint. The infection comes from a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that spreads from another part of the body. Symptoms of infectious arthritis include

  • Intense pain in the joint
  • Joint redness and swelling
  • Chills and fever
  • Inability to move the area with the infected joint

One type of infectious arthritis is reactive arthritis. The reaction is to an infection somewhere else in your body. The joint is usually the knee, ankle, or toe. Sometimes, reactive arthritis is set off by an infection in the bladder, or in the urethra, which carries urine out of the body. In women, an infection in the vagina can cause the reaction. For both men and women, it can start with bacteria passed on during sex. Another form of reactive arthritis starts with eating food or handling something that has bacteria on it.

To diagnose infectious arthritis, your health care provider may do tests of your blood, urine, and joint fluid. Treatment includes medicines and sometimes surgery.

Thorough treatment of fungal infections elsewhere in the body may help prevent fungal arthritis.

Fungal arthritis is a rare condition. It can be caused by any of the invasive types of fungi. The infection can result from an infection in another organ, such as the lungs. People with weakened immune systems who travel or live in areas where the fungi are common, are more susceptible to most causes of fungal arthritis.

Conditions that can cause fungal arthritis include:

  • Blastomycosis
  • Candidiasis
  • Coccidioidomycosis
  • Cryptococcosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Sporotrichosis
  • Exserohilum rostratum (from injection with contaminated steroid vials)

The fungus can affect bone or joint tissue. One or more joints can be affected, most often the large, weight-bearing joints, such as the knees.

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint swelling
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs

The goal of treatment is to cure the infection using antifungal drugs. Commonly used antifungal drugs are amphotericin B or drugs in the azole family (fluconazole, ketoconazole, or itraconazole).

Chronic or advanced bone or joint infection may require surgery (debridement) to remove the infected tissue.