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Viral arthritis

Infectious arthritis - viral

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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.

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    • The structure of a joint

      The structure of a joint

      illustration

    • Shoulder joint inflammation

      Shoulder joint inflammation

      illustration

      • The structure of a joint

        The structure of a joint

        illustration

      • Shoulder joint inflammation

        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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