Septic arthritis, also known as infectious arthritis is a type of arthritis which is characterized by painful inflammation of the joints occurring due to an infection caused by bacteria, virus or fungus. This can also happen due to germs or microbes entering the body from a cut or injury or due to microbes travelling through the blood stream from another part of the body.
Although septic arthritis usually happens in the knees, it can also happen in the shoulders, hips or other joints. Since the infection is quite severe and can deteriorate fast to affect the bones and cartilage, hence quick treatment is crucial.
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Septic arthritis usually occurs due to infectious microbes, specially Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria that can start as a skin infection or urinary tract infection, spreading speedily through the bloodstream to a nearby joint. Sometimes, it can also occur due to a puncture wound, from a drug injection, a surgery, in or near a joint or a tear or cut in the upper epidermal tissue giving free passage to the germs to reach the joint space.
Since the lining of the joints (i.e. synovium) has a bare minimum ability to protect itself from the infection, the body's natural immunological reaction to the infection contributes to the damage.
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Type Of Microbes Causing Septic Arthritis
In adults and children, septic arthritis is generally caused due to the Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria, whereas in sexually active adults, Neisseria gonorrhoeae is the most common pathogen for this painful condition. These foreign microbes enter the bloodstream and infect the joints, causing inflammation and pain.
Common viruses that lead to septic arthritis include; Parvovirus B19, Hepatitis A, B and C, Adenovirus, HIV, HTLV-1, Mumps virus, Coxsackie virus, Alpha virus and Flavi virus.
Fungi that can cause septic arthritis include Coccidiomycosis, Histoplasma, and Blastomyces.
Some causative factors that include the risk of septic arthritis include:
Age: Although, it can happen to anyone, young children and older adults are more at risk of septic arthritis.
Fragile Skin: People having fragile skin that breaks or cuts easily like in the case of psoriasis or eczema are more at risk of septic arthritis.
Weakened Immunity: People having a weak immunity or falling sick often or taking medications that suppress the immune system are more prone to septic arthritis.
Joint Trauma: A sudden trauma due to puncture wounds, animal bites or a cut can increase your chances of getting septic arthritis.
Existing Health Conditions: Pre-existing chronic conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, cancer, diabetes, immuno-deficiency disorders or having a history of joint surgery can increase your risk of septic arthritis.
Unhealthy Habits: Lifestyle habits like smoking or alcohol abuse can increase the risk of septic arthritis.
Although, it can vary depending upon the age and existing health condition, the common signs and symptoms of septic arthritis include:
- Intense pain that worsens with movement
- Redness and warm sensation around the joint
- Swelling of the affected joint
- Inability to move the limb with the infected joint
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
If the condition is not treated on time, it can lead to joint degeneration and ultimately permanent damage.
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor right away to get it diagnosed and treated on time. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup, acknowledges the patient’s past medical history and follows it up with some diagnostics. These include:
- Arthrocentesis, i.e. joint fluid or synovial fluid analysis
- Blood tests
- Imaging techniques including CT-scan, MRI-scan, X-ray and Ultrasound
The available treatment options employed by the doctors chiefly include:
Joint Drainage: Using a needle and syringe, the doctor drains the infected fluid from the joints. And then depending upon the extent of infection, the doctor can also irrigate the joints and remove the infected tissue via the arthroscopy procedure.
Antibiotics: Oral or injectable antibiotics are given for speedy recovery from this inflamed condition.