Septic arthritis symptoms (along with their severity) can vary depending on a number of factors, including:
- The age of the person
- The joint or joints involved
- The type of bacteria causing the condition
- Other conditions the person may have.
Specific symptoms may include:
- Severe pain within a joint. For septic arthritis in the hip, pain may be referred to the buttock, thigh, or knee
- Swollen and/or hot joint
- Decreased movement of the joint
- A noticeable limp
- Other common symptoms consistent with a bacterial infection, such as fever, cold sweats, chills, extreme tiredness, and lack of appetite. In infants, irritability may be a symptom of septic arthritis.
(Click Septic Arthritis Symptoms to learn more about symptoms of septic arthritis, including which joints tend to be affected.)
There is no one specific test that can be used for diagnosing septic arthritis. Therefore, in order to make a diagnosis of septic arthritis, the healthcare provider will usually ask a number of questions, perform a physical exam, and recommend certain tests.
Tests that your healthcare provider may recommend include:
- X-rays or other imaging tests
- Synovial fluid testing
- Spinal tap.
Before making a diagnosis, the healthcare provider will also consider other conditions that share a number of symptoms with septic arthritis. Some of these conditions include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- Septic bursitis
- Gout (gouty arthritis)
- Other types of infectious arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Rheumatic fever
- Reactive arthritis (Reiter's syndrome)
- Psoriatic arthritis.
(Click Diagnosing Septic Arthritis for more information.)