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Viral arthritis

Infectious arthritis - viral

Viral arthritis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of a joint caused by a viral infection.

Causes

Arthritis may be a symptom of many virus-related illnesses. It usually disappears on its own without any lasting effects.

It may occur with:

  • Enterovirus
  • Dengue virus
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Human parvovirus
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Alphaviruses, including chikungunya
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Zika
  • Adenovirus
  • Epstein-Barr
  • Ebola

It may also occur after immunization with the rubella vaccine, which is typically given to children.

While many people are infected with these viruses or receive the rubella vaccine, only a few people develop arthritis. No risk factors are known.

Symptoms

The main symptoms are joint pain and swelling of one or more joints.

Exams and Tests

A physical examination shows joint inflammation. A blood test for viruses may be performed. In some cases, a small amount of fluid may be removed from the affected joint to determine the cause of the inflammation.

Treatment

Your health care provider may prescribe pain medicines to relieve discomfort. You may also be prescribed anti-inflammatory medicines.

If joint inflammation is severe, aspiration of fluid from the affected joint may relieve pain.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome is usually good. Most viral arthritis disappears within several days or weeks when the virus-related disease goes away.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your provider if arthritis symptoms last longer than a few weeks.

References

Gasque P. Viral arthritis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Kelley and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 114.

Ohl CA. Infectious arthritis of native joints. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 103.

  • The structure of a joint

    The structure of a joint - illustration

    Joints, particularly hinge joints like the elbow and the knee, are complex structures made up of bone, muscles, synovium, cartilage, and ligaments that are designed to bear weight and move the body through space. The knee consists of the femur (thigh bone) above, and the tibia (shin bone) and fibula below. The kneecap (patella) glides through a shallow groove on the front part of the lower thigh bone. Ligaments and tendons connect the three bones of the knee, which are contained in the joint capsule (synovium) and are cushioned by cartilage.

    The structure of a joint

    illustration

  • Shoulder joint inflammation

    Shoulder joint inflammation - illustration

    An inflammation of the shoulder joint can cause pain and restricted joint movement.

    Shoulder joint inflammation

    illustration

    • The structure of a joint

      The structure of a joint - illustration

      Joints, particularly hinge joints like the elbow and the knee, are complex structures made up of bone, muscles, synovium, cartilage, and ligaments that are designed to bear weight and move the body through space. The knee consists of the femur (thigh bone) above, and the tibia (shin bone) and fibula below. The kneecap (patella) glides through a shallow groove on the front part of the lower thigh bone. Ligaments and tendons connect the three bones of the knee, which are contained in the joint capsule (synovium) and are cushioned by cartilage.

      The structure of a joint

      illustration

    • Shoulder joint inflammation

      Shoulder joint inflammation - illustration

      An inflammation of the shoulder joint can cause pain and restricted joint movement.

      Shoulder joint inflammation

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

    Tests for Viral arthritis

     
     

    Review Date: 11/9/2019

    Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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