Characteristics of Acute Infectious Arthritis

Acute infectious arthritis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the synovial membrane of the mobile joints. It'll progress and lead to serious consequences if left untreated.
Characteristics of Acute Infectious Arthritis

Last update: 02 July, 2021

Acute infectious arthritis is a disease where the synovial membrane, a thin layer that envelops and protects the interior of the fibrous joint capsule, swells.

It produces a special substance, the synovial fluid, to carry out these functions, a sort of lubricant for the joints that can reduce injuries.

Likewise, there are two types of arthritis depending on their period of development. On the one hand, there’s chronic arthritis if, after treating the causes of the disease, the condition doesn’t go away and a person has the problem for the rest of their life. On the other hand, it’s acute arthritis if the disorder disappears after therapy.

It usually symmetrically affects the same joint on both sides of the body. In addition, it can wear down other surrounding internal structures such as bones, cartilage, etc.

Symptoms of acute infectious arthritis

A man in pain.
Pain is one of the main symptoms of this disease.

As a general rule, a person may experience a series of symptoms associated with this disease. Some of the most frequent ones are:

  • General fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever that varies in intensity
  • Occasional chills
  • Intense pain or discomfort in the joints
  • Swelling or inflammation of the affected areas along with a reddish tone (more than usual)
  • Dry mouth (especially in the morning) or reddened eyes
  • Also, a sensation of numbness in the joints that accentuates in the mornings

Causes of septic arthritis

The infectious agents that cause this disease can act directly (the pathogen is in the joint) or indirectly (the harmful microorganism started an infection in a given area and then moved to these structures).

In either case, the patient’s immune system will act against that infection by producing and moving a large number of leukocytes to the area. This is usually the cause of joint inflammation. There are other classifications according to the type of infectious agents that cause the disease. In this way, there may be:

  • Bacterial arthritis caused by gonococcus, streptococcus, or staphylococcus. As a general rule, infectious arthritis is part of this category.

Diagnosis of acute infectious arthritis

As a general rule, the medical team will conduct a series of medical procedures to identify this disorder and, thus, rule out others with similar characteristics. For example:

  • A test in which specialists check the symptoms a patient may be experiencing
  • They’ll also study the patient’s medical history
  • A synovial fluid analysis tests a small amount of this substance for lab review in order to confirm or rule out the presence of pathogens
  • Other routine tests such as blood or urine analysis

Treating acute infectious arthritis

A doctor with a patient.
Prompt medical consultation to get a diagnosis is a must.

The goal of treatment is to eliminate the triggering infection and mitigate any symptoms. Thus:

  • A physician will prescribe antibiotics for infectious arthritis caused by bacteria
  • They may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics (to relieve pain or discomfort)
  • Alternatively, they have the option to immobilize the affected joint (and may even put a splint on it)
  • Lastly, they may recommend physical therapy to restore joint strength and range of motion

As you can see, these measures work in unison and can improve a person’s condition.

A complex pathology

Finally, patients with infectious arthritis require early diagnosis and timely treatment. Complications may arise otherwise. Thus, it’s important to consult a physician as soon as possible in the presence of any of the above symptoms.

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