Can Joint Pain in Viral Fever be Viral Arthritis?
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Joint pain is a common complaint in viral fevers. However, sometimes viral infections can lead to arthritis like inflammation of the joints and many joints of the body may be involved. It is important that you see your physician for medical examination to rule out other possibilities and begin with appropriate treatment. Here is some information about viral arthritis for your reference.
Viral arthritis is a condition in which joints are inflamed and swollen from a viral infection in the body. This is generally self limiting and may not always require any specific treatment. However, early diagnosis and treatment may help to identify other inflammatory joint conditions. In case of specific treatable viral infections like hepatitis or HIV, timely intervention can help.
While there are no particular risk factors or causes, viral arthritis may occur from viral infections like mumps, rubella, enterovirus, dengue fever, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B and C, human parvovirus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Sometimes, it may also occur after immunization with certain vaccines like rubella vaccine, commonly seen in children. These viral infections occur in many individuals, but only few persons may be affected by viral arthritis.
Clinical Presentation of Viral Arthritis
Viral arthritis usually presents with flu-like illness from viral infection and may show features like fever, body ache, enlarged lymph nodes, respiratory or gastric complaints and rash.
Viral arthritis usually occurs during that phase of the viral infection when the typical rash of viral fever appears. Generally, symmetrical small joints are involved but some persons may have a different pattern and soft tissues may also be involved depending on the viral infection present.
The most commonly affected joints include those of the hands, wrists, fingers, feet, ankles and knees. The main presenting symptoms of viral arthritis are pain and swelling in one or more joints. Additionally, there may be redness or rash like appearance and itching. In case of some viral infections, arthritis may not be clearly present but generalized body pain and joint pain may be noticed. Other additional symptoms may be noted depending on the viral infection and need to be examined.
Diagnosis of Viral Arthritis
Patient history about the onset of the illness and presenting features is important. A thorough clinical examination to detect enlarged lymph nodes, identify the type of rash and other signs of viral infections is necessary.
Joint pain in one or more joints is clinically examined for inflammation and swelling. Investigations may be ordered to confirm the relation to viral infection and rule out other causes of joint involvement.
Blood tests for complete blood count (CBC), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) immunoglobulin and antibody titers may be performed. Serology tests to detect the presence of virus may be required. Specific tests to detect certain treatable viral infections may be considered. Tests that detect antinuclear antibodies, rheumatoid factor and protein antibodies may be ordered to rule out other inflammatory joint conditions and autoimmune disorders.
If required, some amount of fluid may be aspirated from an inflamed joint for laboratory tests to detect the cause of inflammation. Imaging studies may be ordered to study the joint and surrounding structures depending on the specific condition.
Treatment of Viral Arthritis
As viral arthritis is generally mild and does not cause any long lasting effects, symptomatic treatment may be given. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help in controlling pain, swelling and inflammation. In some cases, a short course of low doses of steroids may be required.
If the joint inflammation is severe and meets the specific criteria, removal or aspiration of fluid from the joint may be considered. For some patients, physical therapy may be advised.
The prognosis for Viral Arthritis is generally good and usually no complications are seen. As the viral infection subsides, viral arthritis too disappears within next few days or weeks. In case symptoms of arthritis last longer than few weeks, medical advice should be sought and a referral to appropriate specialist may be considered.
Prevention of Viral Arthritis
While the occurrence of viral arthritis is a part of the natural course of the viral infection, there are no specific measures to prevent it. However, certain measures to prevent the spread and occurrence of viral infections can be helpful.
Viral infections commonly spread through air during coughing and sneezing or through contaminated food and water. Special precautions to avoid exposure to infected persons and to avoid consumption of contaminated food and water may be useful. Other sexually transmitted viral infections need to be prevented by using appropriate protection.
Vaccination – Flu shot taken every year can help to a great extent, particularly in patients with a weak immune system. Vaccines available for other viral infections should be taken according to the recommended schedule.
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