Septic Arthritis

1 What is Septic Arthritis?

Septic arthritis or infectious arthritis refers to the inflammation of the joint caused by bacterial or viral infection. It usually affects one joint of the body, like knee or hip. In some rare cases, septic arthritis may affect multiple joints. 

Children and older adults are more prone to develop infectious arthritis. Joint damage caused by infection is severe and progresses soon. Earlier treatment is very important in preventing complications. 

Draining the joint with a needle or by surgical methods is the most common treatment option for the condition. Infection is treated with antibiotics.

2 Symptoms

The symptoms of septic arthritis develop within a short duration of few hours or so.

The affected joint may have pain, swelling, reddishness, and stiffness. Infection is most commonly seen in knees, although hips, elbows, and ankles also may be affected. 

It is difficult to move the affected joint. Some people have fever as a symptom.

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3 Causes

Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections of the joint cause septic arthritis. The most common causative organism is Staphylococcus aureus (Staph). 

Infections like urinary tract infection or skin infection may spread through the blood stream to the joint. Direct injury to the joint, intravenous drug use, or a surgical procedure may also serve as access point for the causative organism.

Infection of the joint causes inflammation of the lining, causing joint damage.

People with chronic diseases affecting the joint, like osteoarthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis, have increased risk of developing septic arthritis. Previous injuries or surgery of the joint also enhances the susceptibility of the condition.

Infections are more likely to occur in people who are taking medications to suppress the immune system. Causative organisms have easy access to the body through a fragile skin that breaks easily. 

Thus skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema increase the risk of infection that cause infectious arthritis. Trauma of the joint caused by animal bites, punctures, and injuries also puts a person at risk for developing septic arthritis. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Septic arthritis is diagnosed by joint fluid analysis, blood tests, and imaging techniques. Infection changes the color, consistency, and makeup of the fluid present in the joint. 

Analysis of the fluid from the affected joint gives important clues regarding the causative organism and the extent of damage. Medications are prescribed on the basis of the type of infection. 

Blood tests reveal the presence of infection, while imaging methods like X-ray provides a detailed picture of the joint that helps in assessing the extent of damage.

5 Treatment

Antibiotics and joint drainage are the treatment methods for septic arthritis. The joint fluid can be withdrawn using a needle inserted into the joint space. 

Arthroscopy or scope procedure is another method to drain the fluid from the affected joint. In this procedure, a small catheter with video camera is placed in the affected joint through an incision. 

Fluid from the joint is then sucked and drained through tubes inserted though incisions in the joint. Open surgical procedure is used to drain the fluid in hip joint, where it is difficult to drain using a needle or scope procedure.  

Antibiotics are prescribed based on the causative organism. To control the infection, antibiotics are given through IV, initially. The treatment is continued for two to six weeks, and in the later stages IV is switched to oral form.

6 Prevention

Septic arthritis can be prevented by avoiding infections, wounds, punctures, and skin damage.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Kalium carbonicum, Rhododendron, Silicea, Apis mellifica, and Helianthus annuus are the common homeopathic remedies indicated in the treatment of septic arthritis. 

Various types of massages and aromatherapy are being practiced in alleviating some of the symptoms of arthritis. 

Ginseng, turmeric, ginger, licorice, alfalfa, black cohosh, celery, mustard, red pepper, and rosemary are considered to be useful in the treatment of arthritis including infectious form. 

Nutritional supplements of glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oil are also tried in the treatment of this arthritis.

8 Risks and Complications

Joint degeneration, especially if treatment is delayed, and permanent damage causing disability are the main complications associated with septic arthritis.

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