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What is septic arthritis?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Septic arthritis, also known as infectious arthritis, is caused by an infection in a joint. The infection is typically caused by bacteria, though viruses and fungi can also cause septic arthritis. The bacteria, virus or fungi travel through the bloodstream from infected tissue to the joint, causing an infection that creates pain, swelling and fever.

Septic arthritis can occur in someone at any age, though certain risk factors, such as artificial joints or certain diseases, skew more toward adults. In children, septic arthritis is more likely to occur in children under three years old. Septic arthritis is least common in children from the age of three through adolescence.

Septic arthritis is a very treatable condition, and will not last long if treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, however, septic arthritis can cause life-long damage to the affected joint, such as osteoarthritis or a joint deformity. If you suspect you have septic arthritis, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.