All About Septic Arthritis: Causes, Warning Signs, Progression, and Treatment

Dec 11, 2023
 All About Septic Arthritis: Causes, Warning Signs, Progression, and Treatment
Septic arthritis is an extremely serious infection of a joint that can cause permanent damage to the affected joint if left untreated. We discuss everything you need to know about septic arthritis here.

Septic arthritis — also referred to as infectious arthritis — is a severe infection of a joint that usually comes on quite suddenly and needs to be dealt with as promptly as possible in order to prevent serious tissue damage and widespread infection. 

Because septic arthritis poses such a serious threat to your health, Serge Lartchenko, MD, and the rest of our team at the Texas Infectious Disease Institute in Richardson, Texas, want to give you as much information as possible on it. 

In this blog, we discuss the causes, warning signs, progression, and treatment of septic arthritis.

Causes of septic arthritis

Septic arthritis is most often caused by bacteria that spread in your bloodstream from another area in your body. However, it’s also common for the bacteria to enter your body in an opening from a surgical procedure such as a knee replacement.

Common viruses or infections that lead to septic arthritis include hepatitis A, B, and C, mumps, adenovirus, HIV, and untreated gonorrhea. 

Things that can increase your risk for septic arthritis include undergoing joint replacement surgery, having an open wound around a joint, having a weakened immune system, or having a history of joint problems. 

Symptoms of septic arthritis

When you have septic arthritis, you’re going to have very similar symptoms to other forms of arthritis, such as swelling, pain, and stiffness in the infected joint. However, you may also experience some of these other symptoms:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Redness around the joint
  • Skin rashes
  • Increased irritability

Septic arthritis most often affects the knee joint, but it can also occur in your shoulder, wrist, hip, and elbow. But no matter where you have the infection, these symptoms will come on within a few hours of the infection settling in.

Why seeking treatment is so important

If you don’t get immediate treatment for your septic arthritis, you risk having serious, permanent damage done to your joint tissues and bones. This can impact your daily life significantly as you can lose use of the affected joint.

We use a few different techniques to get to the bottom of what’s causing your symptoms in order to confirm or rule out septic arthritis. These diagnostic tests include taking a sample of synovial fluid from the affected joint (aspiration), doing blood tests, or performing X-rays.

If it’s confirmed that you have septic arthritis, we have a few different treatment routes we can take depending on the severity of the infection. These treatment options include taking antibiotics (oral or intravenous), draining the infected synovial fluid, or surgically removing the inflamed tissue and debris.

If you suspect that you’re dealing with septic arthritis, don’t delay in seeking an appointment with our team to get it properly diagnosed and treated. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at 469-960-4413 or by using our online booking tool today.