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Viral arthritis

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Infectious arthritis - viral

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:

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 1 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

Ohl CA, Forster D. Infectious arthritis of native joints. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 105.

Vassilopoulos D, Calabrese LH. Rheumatologic aspects of viral infections. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, et al, eds. Kelly's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 110.

Review Date:12/10/2015
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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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