About bacterial arthritis

What is bacterial arthritis?

Infectious arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints that occurs as a result of infection by bacteria, viruses or, less frequently, fungi or parasites. The symptoms of Infectious arthritis depend upon which agent has caused the infection but symptoms often include fever, chills, general weakness, and headaches, followed by inflammation and painful swelling of one or more joints of the body.

Most often, the infection begins at some other location in the body and travels via the bloodstream to the joint. Less commonly, the infection starts in the joint in the course of a surgical procedure, injection or other action.

What are the symptoms for bacterial arthritis?

If septic Arthritis occurs in an artificial joint (prosthetic joint infection), signs and symptoms such as minor Pain and Swelling may develop months or years after knee replacement or hip replacement surgery. Also, a loosening of the joint may occur, which causes Pain while moving the joint or while putting weight on the joint. Typically, the Pain goes away when at rest. In extreme cases, the joint may become dislocated.

What are the causes for bacterial arthritis?

Septic arthritis can be caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections. Bacterial infection with Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is the most common cause. Staph commonly lives on even healthy skin.

Septic arthritis can develop when an infection, such as a skin infection or urinary tract infection, spreads through your bloodstream to a joint. Less commonly, a puncture wound, drug injection, or surgery in or near a joint — including joint replacement surgery — can give the germs entry into the joint space.

The lining of your joints has little ability to protect itself from infection. Your body's reaction to the infection — including inflammation that can increase pressure and reduce blood flow within the joint — contributes to the damage.

What are the treatments for bacterial arthritis?

Doctors rely on joint drainage and antibiotic drugs to treat septic arthritis.

Joint drainage

Removing the infected joint fluid is crucial. Drainage methods include:

  • Needle. In some cases, your doctor can withdraw the infected fluid with a needle inserted into the joint space.
  • Scope procedure. In arthroscopy (ahr-THROS-kuh-pee), a flexible tube with a video camera at its tip is placed in your joint through a small incision. Suction and drainage tubes are then inserted through small incisions around your joint.
  • Open surgery. Some joints, such as the hip, are more difficult to drain with a needle or arthroscopy, so an open surgical procedure might be necessary.


To select the most effective medication, your doctor must identify the microbe causing your infection. Antibiotics are usually given through a vein in your arm at first. Later, you may be able to switch to oral antibiotics.

Typically, treatment lasts from two to six weeks. Antibiotics carry a risk of side effects, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Allergic reactions also can occur. Ask your doctor about what side effects to expect from your medication.

Removal of replacement joint

If an artificial joint is infected, treatment often involves removing the joint and temporarily replacing it with a joint spacer — a device made with antibiotic cement. Several months later, a new replacement joint is implanted.

If a replacement joint can't be removed, a doctor may clean the joint and remove damaged tissue but keep the artificial joint in place. Intravenous antibiotics are followed by oral antibiotics for several months to prevent the infection from coming back.

What are the risk factors for bacterial arthritis?

Risk factors for septic arthritis include:

  • Existing joint problems. Chronic diseases and conditions that affect your joints — such as osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus — can increase your risk of septic arthritis, as can previous joint surgery and joint injury.
  • Having an artificial joint. Bacteria can be introduced during joint replacement surgery, or an artificial joint may become infected if germs travel to the joint from a different area of the body through the bloodstream.
  • Taking medications for rheumatoid arthritis. People with rheumatoid arthritis have a further increase in risk because of medications they take that can suppress the immune system, making infections more likely to occur. Diagnosing septic arthritis in people with rheumatoid arthritis is difficult because many of the signs and symptoms are similar.
  • Skin fragility. Skin that breaks easily and heals poorly can give bacteria access to your body. Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema increase your risk of septic arthritis, as do infected skin wounds. People who regularly inject drugs also have a higher risk of infection at the site of injection.
  • Weak immune system. People with a weak immune system are at greater risk of septic arthritis. This includes people with diabetes, kidney and liver problems, and those taking drugs that suppress their immune systems.
  • Joint trauma. Animal bites, puncture wounds or cuts over a joint can put you at risk of septic arthritis.

Having a combination of risk factors puts you at greater risk than having just one risk factor does.

Is there a cure/medications for bacterial arthritis?

There is no cure for bacterial arthritis, but you can take certain medications to reduce the symptoms.

1. If you have bacterial arthritis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help get rid of the bacteria and reduce inflammation. The most common antibiotic used for bacterial arthritis is doxycycline. It's usually taken twice a day for two to four weeks.

2. You may also want to try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). These can help reduce pain and swelling in your joints.

Other medications that may be recommended include:

1. Prednisone: This helps decrease inflammation in your body. It often starts working within a few hours after taking it and lasts up to three days before needing another dose.

2. Hydroxychloroquine: This drug can help relieve joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis while reducing swelling associated with these conditions, too. However, it can cause side effects like stomach upset or dizziness if taken regularly over time so talk with your doctor before starting this medication.

3. Amoxicillin: A common antibiotic that works against bacteria.

4. Dicloxacillin: Another common antibiotic that works against bacteria.

5. Ciprofloxacin: An antibiotic that also works against bacterial infections, including those related to arthritis.

6. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim): An antibiotic that treats a wide range of bacterial infections, including those related to arthritis.

7. Corticosteroids: These medications reduce inflammation in your joints and other tissues, which can help you feel better while your body fights off the infection on its own.

8. Immune system stimulants (or immunomodulators): These medications can help boost your immune system's ability to fight off bacterial infections, as well as other types of diseases like cancer or AIDS/HIV infection.

9. Pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil): These are common over-the-counter drugs that are often used for mild pain relief after an injury or surgery—but they can also be helpful for bacterial arthritis symptoms if taken at recommended doses every day (You should always talk with your doctor first before taking any medication).

Pain and swelling in the joints,Fever and chills,Swelling of the lymph nodes,Joint pain that's worse after rest and improves with movement,Limping or difficulty walking
Infection of the joint by bacteria,Inflammation of the joint caused by infection, usually with Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes,Lyme disease,Rheumatic fever,Syphilis
Amoxicillin,Cephalexin,Doxycycline,Minocycline,Rifampin,Sulfa drugs

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