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Definition Return to top
Viral arthritis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the joints from a viral infection.
Causes Return to top
Arthritis may be a symptom of many virus-related illnesses. It usually disappears on its own without any lasting effects.
It may occur with:
It may also occur after immunization with the rubella vaccine. This is a common form of childhood joint discomfort.
While many people are infected with these viruses or receive the rubella vaccine, only a few people develop arthritis. No risk factors have been established.
Symptoms Return to top
The main symptoms are joint pain and swelling of one or more joints.
Exams and Tests Return to top
A physical examination shows joint inflammation. A blood test (serology) for viruses may be performed.
Treatment Return to top
Your doctor may prescribe pain medicines to relieve discomfort.
If joint inflammation is severe, aspiration of fluid from the affected joint may relieve pain.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome is usually good. Most viral arthritis disappears within several days or weeks when the virus-related disease goes away.
Possible Complications Return to top
There are usually no complications.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if arthritis symptoms last longer than a few weeks.
Prevention Return to top
There is no known way to prevent viral arthritis.
References Return to top
Sargent JS. Polyarticular arthritis. In: Harris Ed, Budd Rc, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, Sledge CB, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005: chap 35.Update Date: 9/17/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, Phd, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.