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Viral arthritis



Viral arthritis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the joints from 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:

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.


The main symptoms are joint pain and swelling of one or more joints.

Signs and tests

A physical examination shows joint inflammation. A blood test (serology) 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.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome is usually good. Most viral arthritis disappears within several days or weeks when the virus-related disease goes away.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if arthritis symptoms last longer than a few weeks.


There are usually no complications.


Your doctor may prescribe pain medicines to relieve discomfort. You doctor may also prescribe antiviral or anti-inflammatory medications.

If joint inflammation is severe, aspiration of fluid from the affected joint may relieve pain.


There is no known way to prevent viral arthritis.


Espinoza LR. Infections of bursae, joints, and bones. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 293.

Ohl CA. Infectious arthritis of native joints. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2009:chap 102.

Review Date: 12/1/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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