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A to Z: Septic Arthritis (Pyogenic Arthritis)

May also be called: Bacterial Arthritis; Infectious Arthritis

Septic, or pyogenic, arthritis is a serious and painful infection of a joint. It is most often caused by bacteria, such as staphylococcus or streptococcus, but can also be caused by a fungus or virus. These germs travel through the bloodstream from other infected areas of the body or enter the joint area through open wounds or punctures.

More to Know

Septic arthritis affects people of all ages, but is most common in children up to age 3 and older adults. People at higher risk for the infection include those with existing joint problems, weakened immune systems, certain skin conditions, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Septic arthritis mostly affects the knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Someone with the condition will have severe pain, swelling, redness, warmth, and limited mobility in the affected joint. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, sore throat, and vomiting.

Treatment includes the use of intravenous antibiotics and drainage of the site, either by needle or through a surgical procedure.

Keep in Mind

People with septic arthritis can expect a full recovery as long as the infection is diagnosed and treated promptly. Otherwise, permanent joint damage may occur.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.