Septic arthritis is an infection in the joint (synovial) fluid and joint tissues. It occurs more often in children than in adults. The infection usually reaches the joints through the bloodstream. In some cases, joints may become infected due to an injection, surgery, or injury.
Different types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi can infect a joint. The types that can cause septic arthritis include:
The most common type of bacteria that causes septic arthritis is called Staphylococcus aureus. It is also known as S. aureus. The bacteria can enter the body in a number of ways, such as:
Risk factors for septic arthritis include:
Other factors that may increase the risk for septic arthritis include:
The most common joints affected by septic arthritis are the knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger. Most often, only one joint is affected. Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each person, but common symptoms include:
The symptoms of septic arthritis can look like other health conditions. Make sure you see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Early diagnosis of septic arthritis is important. This is to prevent permanent damage to the joint. The process starts with a medical history and a physical exam. Tests may also be done, such as:
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Septic arthritis often needs treatment right away with antibiotics. This can improve symptoms within 48 hours. Some infections caused by fungi need treatment with antifungal medicine. Viral infections are not treated with medicine.
Fluid called pus may be drained from the joint. A buildup of pus can damage the joint. The pus is drained with a needle, tube, or surgery. It is possible that pus may need to be drained multiple times from the joint over the course of treatment. Other treatment may include:
Septic arthritis can destroy the joint cartilage. This can cause permanent damage to the joint.
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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