Viral arthritis is the swelling and irritation of joints caused due to a viral infection. Viral infections usually cause localized illness in one or more parts of the body. The body’s immune system fights these viruses until they are killed and eliminated from the body, after which, the symptoms subside. But, in the case of viral arthritis, the response of the body’s immune system can cause inflammation in the joints. Therefore, even after the virus is killed and eliminated from the body, the pain and swelling in the joints can prevail. In severe cases, the joints may be permanently changed causing a deformity.
The main symptom of viral arthritis is pain and swelling in one or more joints. But, depending on the virus that causes the disease, the symptoms can slightly differ. The below details explain about the type of viruses, the body’s symptomatic response, and the treatments used.
Causes And Symptoms Of Viral Arthritis
1. Hepatitis Virus
About 10–14% of viral arthritis cases are due to hepatitis-A virus (HAV). The oral-fecal route is the medium of transmission for this virus. Hepatitis-B virus (HBV) accounts to about 20–25% of viral arthritis cases. The mode of transmission here is sexual or parenteral (through intestine). Similar is the case for HCV.
In any of the strains of these viruses, the symptoms of arthritis are usually evident even before the prominent symptoms of jaundice show up. Pain and swelling in joints, especially of hands and legs (wrists, elbows, ankles, and knees) is seen. The inflammation remains weeks after the jaundice is gone.
2. Parvovirus B-19
Parvovirus B-19 is a common virus which can affect both adults and children with equal intensity. The illness it induces is called fifth disease. Adults usually report of sore joints within three weeks of the infection, where any of the joints of hands and legs can be affected. The inflammation usually subsides after two weeks but might recur in future. In children, a pain in any joint of the body can be seen, which heals quicker than in adults.
The virus can spread through respiratory secretions, blood transfusion, and through the placenta from the mother to the baby. If transferred through the placenta, the life of the fetus could be in danger, especially in the first and the second trimesters.
3. Rubella Virus
Rubella is a highly infectious, yet mild viral disease affecting women in most of the cases. The symptoms include rashes accompanied by joint pain, which onset a week after the virus enters the body. Unlike other diseases, inflammation is not a prominent symptom, but the joints become stiff and painful. Symptoms usually go away by two weeks, but in severe cases could continue to appear for months. Another important factor to remember is that the rubella vaccine can also induce joint pain with pain being prevalent for at least 2 weeks.
Rubella virus spreads through respiratory (nasopharyngeal, particularly) secretions, which usually breed during the winter and the spring.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. People who are newly infected with HIV often have flu accompanied by joint pain. Around 10% of the people with AIDS have severe joint pain, especially in the shoulders, knees, and elbows. HIV can also trigger various other forms of arthritis.
Apart from these, Alphavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, Mumps virus, Herpes simplex virus, and Adenovirus also have the capability of inducing arthritis.
Treatment For Viral Arthritis
The treatment is mostly symptomatic and uses different approaches based on the severity of the disease.
- Over the counter pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen or naproxen are prescribed.
- In case of severe joint pain, fluid aspiration is done. This technique involves the drawing of fluid using an aspirator or a syringe in certain amounts from the joints.
- In rare cases, immunoglobulins are also administered.
One can prevent contracting viral arthritis by vaccination, practicing safe sex, and using face masks which prevent the viruses born from respiratory fluids.