Viral arthritis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of a joint caused by a viral infection.
Arthritis may be a symptom of many virus-related illnesses. It usually disappears on its own without any lasting effects.
It may occur with:
- Dengue virus
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Human parvovirus
- Alphaviruses, including chikungunya
Note: This list may not be all inclusive.
It may also occur after immunization with the rubella vaccine, which is typically given to children.
While many people are infected with these viruses or receive the rubella vaccine, only a few people develop arthritis. No risk factors are known.
The main symptoms are joint pain and swelling of one or more joints.
Exams and Tests
A physical examination shows joint inflammation. A blood test for viruses may be performed. In some cases, a small amount of fluid may be removed from the affected joint to determine the cause of the inflammation.
Your health care provider may prescribe pain medicines to relieve discomfort. You may also be prescribed anti-inflammatory medicines.
If joint inflammation is severe, aspiration of fluid from the affected joint may relieve pain.
The outcome is usually good. Most viral arthritis disappears within several days or weeks when the virus-related disease goes away.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your provider for an appointment if arthritis symptoms last longer than a few weeks.
Infectious arthritis - viral
Gasque P, Guillot X. Viral arthritis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, Koretzky GA, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Firestein and Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 121.
Ohl CA. Infectious arthritis of native joints. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 103.
Review Date 11/23/2021
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.