Information for Patients
Most kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Infectious arthritis is an infection in the joint. The infection comes from a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that spreads from another part of the body. Symptoms of infectious arthritis include
- Intense pain in the joint
- Joint redness and swelling
- Chills and fever
- Inability to move the area with the infected joint
One type of infectious arthritis is reactive arthritis. The reaction is to an infection somewhere else in your body. The joint is usually the knee, ankle, or toe. Sometimes, reactive arthritis is set off by an infection in the bladder, or in the urethra, which carries urine out of the body. In women, an infection in the vagina can cause the reaction. For both men and women, it can start with bacteria passed on during sex. Another form of reactive arthritis starts with eating food or handling something that has bacteria on it.
To diagnose infectious arthritis, your health care provider may do tests of your blood, urine, and joint fluid. Treatment includes medicines and sometimes surgery.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection you get from the bite of an infected tick. The first symptom is usually a red rash, which may look like a bull's eye. But not all people with Lyme disease have a rash. As the infection spreads to other parts of the body, you may have
- A fever
- A headache
- Body aches
- A stiff neck
Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose because many of its symptoms are like those of the flu and other diseases. And you may not have noticed a tick bite. Your health care provider will look at your symptoms and medical history to figure out whether you have Lyme disease. Lab tests may not always give a clear answer until you have been infected for at least a few weeks.
Antibiotics can cure most cases of Lyme disease. The sooner treatment begins, the quicker and more complete the recovery.
After treatment, some patients may still have muscle or joint aches and nervous system symptoms. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). Long-term antibiotics have not been shown to help with PTLDS. However, there are ways to help with the symptoms of PTLDS, and most patients do get better with time.
Lyme disease Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. The bacteria are transferred to humans by tick bite, specifically by blacklegged ticks (commonly known as deer ticks). The condition is named for the location in which it was first described, the town of Lyme, Connecticut.If not treated with antibiotics, Lyme disease follows three stages: early localized, early disseminated, and late disseminated infection. A small percentage of individuals have symptoms that persist months or years after treatment, which is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.A characteristic feature of Lyme disease, and the key feature of early localized infection, is a slowly expanding red rash on the skin (called erythema migrans) at the site of the tick bite; the rash is often bull's-eye shaped. Flu-like symptoms and enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) are also early signs of infection. Most people who are treated at this stage never develop further symptoms.The early disseminated stage of Lyme disease occurs as the bacteria is carried throughout the body in the bloodstream. This stage occurs a few weeks after the tick bite. Signs and symptoms can include additional rashes on other parts of the body, flu-like symptoms, and lymphadenopathy. Some affected individuals develop neurologic problems (referred to as neuroborreliosis), such as paralyzed muscles in the face (facial palsy); pain, numbness, or weakness in the hands or feet; difficulty concentrating; or memory problems. Rarely, the heart is affected (Lyme carditis), causing a sensation of fluttering or pounding in the chest (palpitations) or an irregular heartbeat.The late disseminated stage of Lyme disease can occur months to years after the tick bite. The most common feature of this stage, Lyme arthritis, is characterized by episodes of joint pain and swelling, usually affecting the knees. In rare cases, the late disseminated stage also involves neurological problems.Individuals with post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome report ongoing exhaustion (fatigue), muscle and joint achiness, headache, or difficulty concentrating even after treatment with antibiotics, when there is no evidence of the bacteria in the body. Very rarely, individuals have joint pain and swelling for months or years after successful antibiotic treatment. This complication is called antibiotic-refractory Lyme arthritis.