Infectious arthritis — sometimes referred to as septic arthritis — occurs when an infection spreads to a joint, causing inflammation with pain and swelling.

Overview and Symptoms

The most common symptoms of infectious arthritis are pain and swelling, most often in the knee. Signs of infection, such as fever and chills, may also be present.

The diagnosis relies on a complete review of your symptoms, a thorough physical examination, blood tests, x-rays, and an analysis of joint fluid. Additional imaging tests (such as MRI) may also be recommended to assess any damage to the joint or bone.

Treatment at BIDMC

If the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics and drainage of the infected fluid will be recommended. Infections caused by a fungus are treated similarly except that antifungal medications are required. Infections caused by a virus, on the other hand, typically go away on their own without any specific treatment.

In all cases, you may also receive medications to help reduce pain and inflammation.

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The Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology provides leading-edge, compassionate care to patients with rheumatic diseases and other disorders of the joints, muscles and ligaments.

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The Division of Infectious Diseases provides provides world-class consultative services for patients, both routinely as well as in emergencies.

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