Septic arthritis, also known as infectious or bacterial arthritis, is the intense inflammation of a joint triggered by a pathogen agent (microbe) that has found its way into the joint. The microbe can penetrate the organism in two ways: either through the bloodstream, in the case of a contagion, or from the outside, through an open wound. Once inside the body, the respective pathogen agent will start wreaking havoc in no time. This type of arthritis has a very quick-acting destruction rate if untreated. Fortunately, this disease is not very common, with a frequency of 5-10 cases out of 100 000 people.
Septic Arthritis Causes
In most cases, septic arthritis is cause by bacterium, the most widely encountered culprit being the Staphylococcus. Research has divided septic arthritis into two subcategories: gonococcal arthritis and non-gonococcal arthritis, the latter representing 80% of septic arthritis cases. The most frequent bacterial agents that are involved in the development of non-gonococcal arthritis are:
- Staphylococci (Staphylococcus aureus, epidermis) and Streptococci (from the respiratory or urinary tract). These two types of bacteria are involved in the development of 90% of septic arthritis cases.
- Negative Gram Bacilli: Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia Coli most frequently target older people with urinary tract infections and weak immune systems.
- Haemophilus influenzae, which is most frequent in children.
- Anaerobic germs: Clostridium perfringens, Bacteroides fragillis
Some people, such as older people that come from poor environments, people with weak immune systems (due to diabetes, HIV, autoimmune diseases etc), intravenous drug users and people under immunosuppressant or chemotherapy are more prone to developing joint infections.
Septic Arthritis Symptoms
Patients that suffer from septic arthritis usually have one swollen joint that is red and warm and painful to the touch. Other symptoms are those that are common with most infections, such as fever, altered states, and even delirium in extreme cases. These symptoms start to manifest themselves suddenly and most frequently target the knees or ankles. Other joints that can be affected are: hip, fists, elbows, small hand and feet joints and the joints of the axial skeleton (especially in the case of intravenous drug users).
Septic Arthritis Treatment
If you have even the smallest suspicion of septic arthritis, you must see your doctor immediately. After an accurate diagnosis, treatment must begin as soon as possible. Antibiotic treatment will begin even before a clear diagnosis is produced. After the diagnosis is set, the treatment is adjusted by taking into consideration the bacteria’s response to various types of antibiotics. The duration of the treatment is approximately 4 to 6 weeks, with intravenous administration for at least 14 days.
Draining the puss out of the infected joint is also a necessary step. This will prevent further joint damage. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory medicine and painkillers will be used depending on the symptoms that the patient is exhibiting. Physiotherapy is also a must. It should start off moderately and take into consideration the physical abilities of the patient, but it is a must in order to prevent atrophy of the muscles.