Chronic infectious arthritis accounts for 5% of infectious arthritis. It can develop in healthy people, but patients at increased risk include those with
Immunosuppression (eg, hematologic or other cancers, immunosuppressive drug use)
Examples of possible causes are Mycobacterium tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) Tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic, progressive mycobacterial infection, often with a period of latency following initial infection. TB most commonly affects the lungs. Symptoms include productive... read more , M. marinum Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Infections Mycobacteria other than the tubercle bacillus sometimes infect humans. These organisms (called nontuberculous mycobacteria) are commonly present in soil and water and are much less virulent... read more , M. kansasii Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Infections Mycobacteria other than the tubercle bacillus sometimes infect humans. These organisms (called nontuberculous mycobacteria) are commonly present in soil and water and are much less virulent... read more , Candida Candidiasis (Invasive) Candidiasis is infection by Candida species (most often C. albicans), manifested by mucocutaneous lesions, fungemia, and sometimes focal infection of multiple sites. Symptoms depend... read more species, Coccidioides immitis Coccidioidomycosis Coccidioidomycosis is a pulmonary or hematogenously spread disseminated disease caused by the fungi Coccidioides immitis and C. posadasii; it usually occurs as an acute benign... read more , Histoplasma capsulatum Histoplasmosis Histoplasmosis is a pulmonary and hematogenous disease caused by Histoplasma capsulatum; it is often chronic and usually follows an asymptomatic primary infection. Symptoms are those... read more , Cryptococcus neoformans Cryptococcosis Cryptococcosis is a pulmonary or disseminated infection acquired by inhalation of soil contaminated with the encapsulated yeasts Cryptococcus neoformans or C. gattii. Symptoms... read more , Blastomyces dermatitidis Blastomycosis Blastomycosis is a pulmonary disease caused by inhaling spores of the dimorphic fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis. Occasionally, the fungi spread hematogenously, causing extrapulmonary... read more , Sporothrix schenckii Sporotrichosis Sporotrichosis is a cutaneous infection caused by the saprophytic mold Sporothrix schenckii. Pulmonary and hematogenous involvement is uncommon. Symptoms are cutaneous nodules that spread... read more , Aspergillus fumigatus Aspergillosis Aspergillosis is an opportunistic infection that usually affects the lower respiratory tract and is caused by inhaling spores of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus, commonly present in... read more , Actinomyces israelii Actinomycosis Actinomycosis is a chronic localized or hematogenous anaerobic infection caused by Actinomyces israelii and other species of Actinomyces. Findings are a local abscess with multiple... read more , and Brucella Brucellosis Brucellosis is caused by Brucella species, which are gram-negative bacteria. Symptoms begin as an acute febrile illness with few or no localized signs and may progress to a chronic stage... read more species.
The arthritis of Lyme disease Symptoms and Signs Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia species. Early symptoms include an erythema migrans rash, which may be followed weeks to months later by... read more is usually acute but may be chronic and recurrent.
Unusual opportunistic organisms are possible in patients with hematologic cancers or HIV infection Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection results from 1 of 2 similar retroviruses (HIV-1 and HIV-2) that destroy CD4+ lymphocytes and impair cell-mediated immunity, increasing risk of certain... read more or who are taking immunosuppressive drugs. A prolonged illness and lack of response to conventional antibiotics suggest a mycobacterial or fungal cause.
In chronic infectious arthritis, the synovial membrane can proliferate and can erode articular cartilage and subchondral bone. Onset is often indolent, with gradual swelling, mild warmth, minimal or no redness of the joint area, and aching pain that may be mild. Usually a single joint is involved.
Patients should have fungal and mycobacterial cultures taken of synovial fluid or synovial tissue, as well as routine studies. Molecular testing techniques may also be useful, especially for detecting mycobacteria.
Plain x-ray findings may differ from those of acute infectious arthritis General arthritis Acute infectious arthritis is a joint infection that evolves over hours or days. The infection resides in synovial or periarticular tissues and is usually bacterial—in younger adults, frequently... read more in that joint space is preserved longer, and marginal erosions and bony sclerosis may occur.
Mycobacterial and fungal joint infections require prolonged treatment. Mycobacterial infections are often treated with multiple antibiotics, guided by sensitivity testing results.