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What is Pyogenic Arthritis?

By Susan Grindstaff
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pyogenic arthritis, also referred to as septic arthritis, is a type of arthritis that sometimes occurs when an infection in another part of the body spreads to a specific joint. The infected joint typically develops arthritic symptoms, such as swelling, redness, and pain. If this type of arthritis is detected early, a complete recovery is often possible. Infections can spread to any joint in the body, but knee and shoulder joints are the most common joints associated with pyogenic arthritis.

Unlike many other types of arthritis, pyogenic arthritis can strike any age group, though it is more commonly suffered by young children and the elderly. This may be because both these age groups are more likely to receive skin lesions resulting from falls or other accidents. Sometimes the infections that lead to pyogenic arthritis are caused by minor scrapes and cuts that do not heal properly, especially if the wound is near a joint. A good way to be sure that a minor wound does not become infected is to cleanse the wound at least daily with an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment.

Some of the symptoms of pyogenic, or septic, arthritis include pain, swelling, and redness around the infected joint. In many cases, because the condition is caused by an infection, chilling and high body temperature may also be present. Sometimes the area immediately around the infected joint can feel hot to the touch. In some cases, particularly in younger patients, nausea and vomiting may occur. In many ways, symptoms of pyogenic arthritis mimic some flu symptoms.

Pyogenic arthritis can escalate into a medical emergency. If it is left untreated, it can lead to septic shock. This condition develops when bacteria from an infection spreads throughout the body to the extent that it poisons the blood. Bacteria that is present within the tissue surrounding the bone has a high risk of spreading to other parts of the body. Septic shock is sometimes fatal, so people who believe they are suffering from pyogenic arthritis should seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment for pyogenic arthritis typically consists of antibiotics. Due to the high risk for the spread of the bacteria, doctors often choose to give the antibiotic treatment intravenously, because medicine given through the vein typically works much faster than medicine taken orally. After the initial danger has been dealt with, the patient typically will continue to take antibiotics orally. In some cases, doctors may also attempt to drain some of the infected fluid by using a syringe.

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