Arthritis Symptoms Caused by Infection

Arthritis that is caused by infection is called septic arthritis. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. This article will discuss the causes and symptoms and give a general description of treatment for this condition.

Causes of Septic Arthritis

If you have a compromised immune system, you would be particularly susceptible to this type of arthritis, but anyone can get it for various reasons. Sometimes patients contract a pathogen for an illness like a respiratory tract infection that first causes the common symptoms of a disease, but then it spreads through the blood stream and becomes concentrated in the joints, where it causes damage similar to other forms of arthritis.

You can get an infection from a contaminated medicine given by shot or intravenously, or you can develop symptoms after taking the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. People who shoot up illegal substances may receive an infection through contaminated needles. You can even get it through an insect bite, such as with Lyme disease.

Bacterial Causes

Staph (staphyloccous aureus) is the most common kind of infection that causes septic arthritis. However, other bacterial infections that can affect your joints are 

  • strep (streptococcus),
  • gonorrhea,
  • borrelia burgdorferi (the organism that causes Lyme disease), and
  • mycobacterium tuberculosis (the bacteria that causes tuberculosis).

Viral Causes

Some viruses that can cause arthritis symptoms include

  • Epstein-Barr (EBV);
  • hepatitis A, B, and C;
  • measles, mumps, and rubella, (MMR vaccine);
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); and
  • enterovirus and ddenovirus.

Fungal Causes

Some fungal infections that can cause arthritis symptoms include

  • candidiasis,
  • histoplamosis,
  • spirotrichosis,
  • blastomycosis, and 
  • exserohilum rostratum.


Symptoms of septic arthritis can include

  • fever,
  • skin that is warm to the touch around a joint,
  • joint pain,
  • redness and swelling,
  • decreased range of motion in a joint(s),
  • fatigue,
  • rash, and/or
  • decreased appetite.


Treatment will involve antibiotics if your septic arthritis is caused by a bacterial infection or an antifungal medication if it is the result of a fungal infection. If it is caused by a virus, this will often subside on its own, so no medication is given. Your physician will take a fluid sample from one of your joints to determine the pathogen, and will possibly drain the fluid from affected joints to lessen the amount of contagion and infection in the joints.

Your doctor may order blood work and also X-rays to determine the extent of damage to the joints.

For symptom relief, the physician may prescribe an analgesic like acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.

If you experiencing the symptoms listed in this article, you should see a rheumatologist at an establishment like Arthritis & Rheumatology Associates of South Jersey as soon as possible to receive treatment for your infection. This is important so that you can avoid permanent damage, which can happen quickly, and to reduce the chances that your condition will become a chronic one.