Bacterial Joint Inflammation
Bacterial joint inflammation is an infection in a joint. It's also known as septic arthritis. It can cause rapid cartilage deterioration and bo...

Table of Contents
powered by healthline

Average Ratings

What Is Bacterial Joint Inflammation?

Bacterial joint inflammation is a serious and painful infection in a joint. It’s also known as bacterial or septic arthritis. Bacteria can get into your joint and cause rapid cartilage deterioration and bone damage. This can lead to significant pain, swelling, redness, and loss of movement.

You can usually make a full recovery with early medical intervention. However, any delay of treatment could lead to permanent joint disability and even septic shock.

What Causes Bacterial Joint Inflammation?

The bacteria that cause bacterial joint inflammation can enter your body through your:

  • skin
  • eyes
  • ears
  • mouth
  • nose
  • mucous membranes

Some of the types of bacteria that can cause this infection include:

  • Staphylococcus aureus: cause staph infections
  • Streptococcus: cause strep throat
  • Streptococcus pneumonia: cause pneumonia
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae: cause gonorrhea
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis: cause tuberculosis
  • Borrelia burgdorferi: cause Lyme disease

Who Is at Risk for Bacterial Joint Inflammation?

Bacterial joint inflammation can affect anyone at any age. However, it most commonly affects the very young and the very old. Some other risk factors include:

  • previous joint surgery or an artificial implant
  • rheumatoid arthritis and taking medications for this condition
  • lupus
  • gout
  • regularly injecting drugs
  • psoriasis or eczema
  • thin skin or wounds on the skin
  • weakened immune system
  • taking medications that suppress immune functioning
  • another bacterial infection in the body, such as a respiratory infection
  • unprotected sex
  • gum disease or periodontal surgery
  • diabetes mellitus
  • smokers
  • recurrent or chronic urinary infections

What Are the Symptoms of Bacterial Joint Inflammation?

The type of bacterium causing your infection determines your symptoms. General symptoms of bacterial joint inflammation happen quickly. They may include:

  • elevated body temperature
  • pain in a joint
  • swelling and redness
  • warm skin over the joint
  • lack of appetite
  • fatigue
  • elevated heart rate

Children usually experience bacterial joint inflammation in their hips and shoulders. Adults tend to notice joint pain in their arms, legs, and particularly the knees. The back, head, and neck are less commonly affected.

How Is Bacterial Joint Inflammation Diagnosed?

Get medical assistance immediately if you think you have bacterial joint inflammation. Early diagnosis and treatment will improve your outlook.

Your doctor will examine you and take a thorough medical history. Your doctor might ask you about recent travel, daily activities, and your work environment.

The following medical tests can help them make a diagnosis:

  • blood tests to detect the presence of harmful bacteria
  • joint X-ray to assess the extent of joint and cartilage damage
  • joint fluid sampling to determine the type of bacterial infection

Sampling fluid from the affected joint will help pinpoint the type of bacterial infection causing the inflammation. Joint fluid is typically transparent and thick. A bacterial infection will usually change its appearance.

What Are the Treatments for Bacterial Joint Inflammation?

Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic after they identify the bacterium causing the infection. You might receive antibiotics intravenously so the medication flows directly into your bloodstream. Your doctor may follow up by giving you an oral antibiotic. Antibiotic treatment might take two to six weeks, depending on the type of bacterial infection and your overall medical condition.

Your doctor might drain the fluid around the joint. This helps reduce pressure and eliminate harmful bacteria. Arthroscopy is a common procedure for this. It involves using tubes for fluid draining and suctioning. Arthrocentesis is another way to eliminate fluid. This procedure involves a needle penetrating the joint area.

Follow your doctor’s instructions if they recommend exercising or moving the joint. Rotating or moving the joint can prevent stiffness and weakness and help promote blood flow for healing. Physical therapy or other rehabilitation can also help with recovery.

Other treatments involve over-the-counter or prescribed anti-inflammatory medications to reduce any swelling and discomfort. Resting the affected area, elevating the joint, and applying warm or cold compresses might also help ease the pain and inflammation. Follow your doctor’s instructions on how to help recovery.

How Can I Prevent Bacterial Joint Inflammation?

Always seek prompt medical assistance for any suspected infection. This can help reduce your risk of developing bacterial joint inflammation. People with a high risk of septic arthritis can consult discuss taking preventive antibiotics with their doctors.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

Getting treatment quickly makes a big impact on your long-term outlook. You can usually expect a full recovery if you receive treatment within a week of the onset of symptoms. Without treatment, you may experience loss of joint function, joint degeneration, infection in other parts of your body, or even septic shock.

Written by: The Healthline Editorial Team
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: Jeanne Morrison, PhD, MSN
Published: Oct 26, 2015
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
Top of page
General Drug Tools
General Drug Tools view all tools
Tools for
Healthy Living
Tools for Healthy Living view all tools
Search Tools
Search Tools view all tools
Insurance Plan Tools
Insurance Plan Tools view all tools