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Understanding Infectious Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Infectious arthritis arises from...well an infection, of course. Within this category of arthritis we have acute and chronic infections.

Acute infectious arthritis evolves over hours or days from a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection in the joint - most commonly from Staphylococcus aureus (which is a bacteria that lives on the skin). Although staph is a naturally occurring bacteria on the skin, it becomes problematic if it enters the bloodstream or joints. Which, makes sense as to why most cases of acute infectious arthritis are caused by puncture wounds or a preceding infections within the body. The giveaway symptoms of acute infectious arthritis includes:

  • Acute escalating pain in ONE joint that is worse with movement

  • Affected joint is objectively swollen, red, and warm

  • Commonly associated with a fever.

One very common cause of acute infectious arthritis in sexually active young adults is N. gonorrhoeae. Surprisingly, an old study from 1980 shows that N. gonorrhea may account for up to 14% of arthritis cases! 4 Key Symptoms and Risk Factors of N. gonorrhoeae that are different than the acute infectious arthritis cases above and include:

  • Age younger than 40

  • Sexually active

  • Sudden onset of migrating joint pain and swelling non-related to physical traumas

  • Multiple skin lesions

To rule out acute infectious arthritis, request an arthrocentesis with synovial fluid examination and culture from your doctor. Treatment includes IV antibiotics and drainage of the infection from joints.

evergreens from birds eye view

And then we have the ever-hidden chronic infectious arthritis. Along with HIV and parasite infections, Lyme disease is the biggest hitter here. Lyme seems to be running ramped these days. It is a disease transmitted primarily via tick bites in heavily wooded areas where spirochetes enters the skin and causes havoc by spreading through the lymphatic system. The three stages of Lyme disease includes:

  1. Early-Localized Stage: A bull's eye rash occurs in 75% of patients at the site of the tick bite.

  2. Early-Disseminated Stage: Days or weeks after the bull's eye rash, the spirochetes spread through the body. This is when non-specific symptoms start to arise including but not limited to: skin lesions, joint pains, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, migraines, and chest pains.

  3. Late-Stage Disease: Untreated Lyme disease presents with arthritis in nearly 60% of patients. Joint pains (most commonly found in the knee), mood and sleep disorders, continuing fatigue, and headaches commonly wax and wane in late stage Lyme disease.

In my personal experience, most patients who have an array of seemingly unrelated symptoms tend to be struggling from either side effects from medications...or Lyme disease.

Conventional medicine treats Lyme disease with a handful of antibiotics. My personal preference for treating Lyme disease includes supporting the adrenal glands and detox pathways while using herbal anti-microbials to flush the spirochetes. Book a free meet & greet with me for more information.

At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!

Until next time,

Dr. Chelsea Leander ND, RH (AHG)




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