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Dealing with septic arthritis

This month, I am going to cover a fairly rare condition called septic arthritis. Although it is rare, I recently saw a case in my practice. Septic arthritis is essentially an infection in a joint. The joint may become infected by an organism...


This month, I am going to cover a fairly rare condition called septic arthritis. Although it is rare, I recently saw a case in my practice. Septic arthritis is essentially an infection in a joint. The joint may become infected by an organism that travels through the bloodstream or may be directly introduced into the joint by a puncture injury such as stepping on a nail.

Research has shown that infants and seniors are more likely than the rest of the population to develop septic arthritis. In addition, the knees and hips are the most commonly affected joints, but the reason for this is still unclear.

Septic arthritis is a very serious condition that progresses quickly. In a short period of time, this condition can severely and permanently damage the cartilage and bone within a joint. As such, it is important to seek medical attention if you suspect a joint has developed septic arthritis.

The symptoms of septic arthritis are fairly easy to recognize. Most affected joints will be red, warm and swollen. The level of pain will increase as the inflammation and infection progresses. Some patients may experience a fever as well.

The distinguishing factor of septic arthritis is the sudden onset of the above symptoms in the absence of a specific action, movement or injury.

The cause of septic arthritis varies from person to person. It can be caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections. However, the most common cause is a bacterial infection with a Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The reason for this is that the type of bacteria is usually found on normal, healthy skin.

The most common cause of septic arthritis is an infection spreading from another location in the body such as the respiratory tract or urinary tract through the bloodstream and settling in a joint. Direct infection through a puncture wound, injection site or surgery are much less common routes of infection.

Once the infection has spread to a joint, it tends to attack the lining of the joint first, then moves into the bones. As the infection progresses, the build-up of inflammation may increase the pressure in the joint as well as reduce the blood flow, both of which may contribute to joint damage.

People who have existing joint conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout may be at greater risk. Also, a weak or compromised immune systems may put you at a higher risk of developing septic arthritis.

If your doctor suspects septic arthritis, he or she may perform a joint fluid analysis.

This procedure involves taking a small sample of the fluid within the affected joint through a needle. Laboratory testing of the joint fluid will be able to identify the specific organism causing the infection. This will allow your doctor to better treat the infection. Blood tests may be also used to check for the presence of infection in the bloodstream. Finally, imaging tests such as X-ray, CT and MRI may be used to assess the level of joint damage.

The treatment of septic arthritis is fairly consistent. Most doctors agree that joint drainage and antibiotic medications are the best form of treatment. Fluid drainage can be performed by different methods. The most common include through a needle, arthroscopy or open surgery. The antibiotic medication will be selected to combat the specific organism that is causing the infection. The good news is that if caught early, septic arthritis is a very treatable condition. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Until next month, drive safely!


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1 Comment » for Dealing with septic arthritis
  1. kylie says:

    Just wondering what time lines your talking about above ‘as below’…
    In a short period of time, this condition can severely and permanently damage the cartilage and bone within a joint.
    The good news is that if caught early, septic arthritis is a very treatable condition.

    I was bitten by a spider back in March and suffered arthritic pain issues within 2 weeks following the bite…

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