Fungal Arthritis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

What are risks for developing fungal arthritis?

Fungal arthritis in people with normal immune systems is rare. One risk for developing fungal arthritis in such people is the accidental injection of medications that are contaminated with fungus microbes in the vials used. This, in fact, was the situation when contaminated vials of medications produced by a compounding pharmacy (New England Compounding Center) caused a multistate outbreak of rare fungal meningitis and fungal arthritis in September 2012.

People with abnormally suppressed immune systems are at risk for fungal infections, including fungal arthritis. This includes people with severely low white blood counts (neutropenia), HIV infection, injection drug abusers, and those taking chronic cortisone medication.

What are fungal arthritis symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of fungal arthritis include pain, heat, swelling, warmth, redness, and loss of range of motion of the affected joint. The most common joint to develop fungal arthritis is the knee joint. Fever may or may not be present.

Symptoms of fungal arthritis typically become manifest weeks to months after the initial infection of the joint.

How is fungal arthritis diagnosed?

Fungal arthritis is considered when a patient whose immune system is compromised develops inflammation of a joint. Blood tests can include testing the blood for the white blood count, inflammation markers (sedimentation rate, or ESR, and C-reactive protein, or CRP), and cultures of the blood. Plain X-ray images, CAT scanning, and/or MRI scanning can be used to determine the character and extent of joint damage. Ultimately, joint fluid is aspirated from the joint with a needle and syringe and this fluid is analyzed in the laboratory to culture the precise fungal organism and establish the diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/8/2015

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