Septic Arthritis (Infectious 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.

Quick GuideSlideshow: Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

Slideshow: Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

What microbes cause septic arthritis?

Septic arthritis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The most common causes of septic arthritis are bacterial, including Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and Haemophilus influenzae. In certain "high-risk" individuals, other bacteria may cause septic arthritis, such as E. coli and Pseudomonas spp. in intravenous drug abusers and the elderly, Neisseria gonorrhoeae in sexually active young adults, and Salmonella spp. in young children or in people with sickle cell disease. Other bacteria that can cause septic arthritis include Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the spirochete bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Viruses that can cause septic arthritis include hepatitis A, B, and C, parvovirus B19, herpes viruses, HIV (AIDS virus), HTLV-1, adenovirus, Coxsackieviruses, mumps, and Ebola. Fungi that can cause septic arthritis include Histoplasma, Coccidioides, and Blastomyces.

Is septic arthritis contagious?

Septic arthritis is not contagious. However, many of the microbes that cause infectious arthritis can be transmitted from an infected patient to another, including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and HIV.

Who is at risk of developing septic arthritis?

While joint infection occasionally affects people with no known predisposing risk factors, it more commonly occurs when certain risk situations are present. Risks for the development of septic arthritis include taking medications that suppress the immune system, intravenous drug abuse, past joint disease, injury, or surgery, and underlying medical conditions and diseases including diabetes, alcoholism, sickle cell disease, rheumatic diseases, and immune deficiency disorders. People with any of these conditions who develop symptoms of septic arthritis should promptly seek medical attention.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/7/2017

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