Septic arthritis is caused by an infection inside of a joint. It can happen in the knees or hips and should be considered as a possibility whenever sudden acute joint pain appears. This condition is considered to be a medical emergency and for increased odds of positive outcomes, a prompt visit to a doctor is essential.
When bacteria get into a joint and cause an infection, the pain can be immense. When these microorganisms in the blood invade the space between bones, the onset of discomfort is sudden and severe. A patient suffering from this disease may have a fever and is likely to hold the affected joint stiffly, as it is the type of discomfort that motion makes worse. It is common in those who have a weakened immune system and the elderly population. The elderly are more likely to have artificial joints, which can be more susceptible to infections caused by microorganisms and bacteria in the blood.
Though it can be difficult to diagnose, if septic arthritis is suspected, treatment must begin immediately for increased odds of a positive outcome. Without prompt attention from a doctor, the bacteria may travel through the blood to infect other parts of the body. Of more concern, however, is the fact that without medical attention for the condition, a joint can be destroyed within days. This is why it is considered to be a medical emergency. Additionally, depending on the type of bacteria or microorganism present, the condition may even become chronic.
In most cases, treatment is straightforward. Antibiotics are chosen based on the type of infection and are usually given intravenously. Then, a doctor may aspirate the joint, removing all infected fluid. In the case of artificial joints, however, surgery is generally required due to an antibiotic-resistant film that forms over the pieces of the joint. In surgery, the joint will be removed and the area cleaned. The artificial joint is not usually replaced right away, but instead done in a later surgery, to ensure proper healing. In cases where surgery is not possible, long term antibiotics are necessary to treat the potentially chronic disease.
After the initial medical intervention, a slow return to activity is generally fine. The RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation) can be used to treat any ongoing joint pain. Gentle exercise approved by a doctor or physical therapist will help the knees, hips, or other affected joints to return to top form.
While it may be strange to consider arthritis as a medical emergency rather than a simple chronic disease of the elderly, the septic version absolutely is. Prompt medical attention is essential in all cases of sudden onset severe joint pain in order to begin a treatment that will lead to increased odds of a positive outcomes.