Infectious arthritis – are you at risk?

Septic or infectious arthritis occurs when tiny organisms like bacteria, fungi, viruses or mycobacteria infect the joints.

The most frequently attacked joints include the knee, hip and wrists although other joints are also susceptible. Joints that have been affected by rheumatoid arthritis are particularly at risk.

How does infectious arthritis occur?

Disease causing parasites need an entry into the body.

Microorganisms could enter the joints directly from the outside through an injury, skin abrasion or even in the wake of a surgical procedure. Infection may also be carried from one joint to another through the blood.

Symptoms to watch out for:

You could be suffering from infectious arthritis if you notice symptoms like these:

  • Sudden localized pain, swelling or warmth in the affected area
  • Low-grade fever and chills
  • Aches and pains all over
  • Nausea
  • Sore joints

Specific symptoms may vary with the kind of organism that causes the infection. For instance, a viral attack may not be accompanied by fever while bacterial and fungal infections may be characterized by low grade fever.

Types of infectious arthritis

There are two kinds – gonococcal and non-gonococcal.

The first kind is an infection that follows an attack of gonorrhea and is more popular in urban areas. It occurs in sexually active people under 40 years of age.

Non-gonococcal arthritis occurs when microorganisms enter the joints through injury or the bloodstream.

Who gets it?

Just about anyone, it would seem.

Homosexual males are more at risk. Women who are menstruating or pregnant are also soft targets. Newborns too are susceptible if their mothers have been infected.

Sexually active teens and adults could also contract infectious arthritis.

Young children could get non-gonococcal arthritis from a hospital environment or through a surgery. Ear infections are a leading cause. Many adults get infected from prosthetic joints too.

Septic arthritis occurs suddenly and may develop within 3-14 days of exposure and requires immediate medical attention.

If immediate medical care is not provided, septic arthritis can damage bones and cartilage extensively.

As the disease progresses, it can set off other complications like osteoarthritis, respiratory problems or blood poisoning (when the infection spreads into the blood).

In the worst case scenario, it can even lead to septic shock, a condition that can cause death.

Who is at risk?

You fall in the high risk category if you:

  • Are over the age of 60
  • Suffer from sexually transmitted infections
  • Suffer from conditions like diabetes
  • Suffer from previous infections that have seriously impaired your immune system
  • Have undergone surgery of the joints
  • Take injections into the joints or inject drugs
  • Suffer from rheumatoid arthritis
  • Have poor hygiene
  • Use immunosuppressive medication or medication that suppress symptoms of inflammation

The above risk factors may be used as a guide to steer away from contracting septic arthritis. Septic arthritis is highly curable if treated quickly.

Some of the risk factors of arthritis are beyond your control. But special care and attention can help you spot the beginnings of the condition and start treatment immediately.

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