What Is Viral Arthritis?
Orthopedic Health Data Verified

Viral Arthritis - Causes, Clinical Diagnosis, Investigations, and Treatment

Published on Aug 17, 2022 and last reviewed on Mar 02, 2023   -  4 min read


Joint inflammation caused by viral infection is known as viral arthritis. To know more about viral arthritis, read the full article below.

What Is Viral Arthritis??

Viral arthritis is the swelling or inflammation of one or more joints caused by a viral infection. Acute-onset arthritis is a common clinical condition for both general practitioners and rheumatologists. Approximately one percent of all episodes of acute arthritis is caused by a viral infection.

What Causes Viral Arthritis?

Most Frequent:

  • Parvovirus.

  • Alphavirus.

  • Rubella.

  • Hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

  • Flavivirus.

Mosquito-borne Viruses:

Other Viruses:

Viral Arthritis and Patients With Comorbidities:

  • EBV can cause viral arthritis in immunosuppressed people.

  • HIV-related arthritis is the first symptom in at least 30 % of HIV patients at any point in the virus's life cycle.

Parvovirus B-19:

Parvovirus B-19, commonly known as the "fifth disease" or erythema infectiosum, can cause arthritis and arthralgia in both children and adults. Up to 60 % of adults who are infected experience joint problems. The skin eruption may be accompanied by or followed by arthritis or arthralgias. However, adult rashes are less frequent. A prevalent pattern in adults includes proximal interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints, most usually affected by acute symmetrical polyarticular arthritis mimicking RA. Finding circulating IgM parvovirus antibodies allows for the identification of acute parvovirus infection. IgG antibodies have been detected in a significant number of healthy persons as well as those who may have a prior infection. Arthritis caused by B19 typically goes away on its own within a few weeks.

Hepatitis Viruses:

Though it rarely results in arthritis, hepatitis A occasionally might induce arthralgias. The hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) viruses can both lead to arthralgia and arthritis. Between 10 and 25 percent of HBV patients experience arthralgia and arthritic symptoms. It may have multiple joints and be symmetrical. The rapidly progressive stage is when the arthritic symptoms typically appear, and they may not be accompanied by any other clinical signs of hepatitis. Fever and rash may offer hints as to the underlying condition. The remission of HBV-related arthritis with jaundice is one of its distinguishing characteristics. Rarely, polyarteritis nodosa caused by HBV might also present with arthritis. In hepatitis C patients with arthritis, immune complex production and retention are also thought to be the pathophysiologic process.


The HIV-associated arthritis syndromes cover a wide range of conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, septic arthritis, reactive arthritis, HIV-associated arthritis, and infrequently reported painful articular syndrome. Since the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), the prevalence of various arthritic disorders has drastically decreased. Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), which occasionally reveals the underlying rheumatological problems, has been observed to be precipitated by the start of HAART.


The most frequent joint symptom of Epstein-Barr virus infection is arthralgia; however, arthritis is an uncommon condition that can occasionally cause significant joint swelling. Joint clinical manifestations are self-limiting, and symptomatic therapy is used. Although a triggering role in the onset of chronic inflammatory arthritis in RA has been suggested, no conclusive proof has been discovered.

What Is Viral Arthritis in Children?

Viral arthritis in children

Children are most commonly affected by viral infections, which can cause arthritis during or after a free interval of two to four weeks.

  • Common Site: Joints of the lower limbs (ankles and knees).

  • Symptoms: Articular symptoms in true infectious arthritis.

  • Diagnosis: Viruses rubella, varicella-zoster, herpes, CMV, and others, can be isolated from synovial fluid. The presence of their antigen-antibody type immune complexes in the synovial fluid with different viral infections suggests post-viral arthritis in children.

  • Management: With symptomatic treatment, postinfectious arthritis has a good prognosis; recovery takes only a few weeks (approximately six weeks).

What Are the Symptoms of Viral Arthritis?

The self-limited episode of symmetric polyarticular arthritis or arthralgia, fever, rash, and lymphadenopathy are the common symptoms of viral arthritis. The symptoms may also vary based on the type of virus infection.

How to Diagnose Viral Arthritis?

Clinical Diagnosis:

The collection of clinical manifestations that characterize viral arthritis appears to be connected to the particular virus that is infecting the patient. These patients typically experience an episode of symmetrical polyarthritis arthritis or arthralgia that resolves on its own. Infrequent is monoarthritis. Fever, a rash, and lymphadenopathy could be present. Rheumatoid factor (RF) and antinuclear antibody (ANA) are two autoantibodies that may be present in certain viral arthritis syndromes, which can mimic the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in rare situations. The titers are often small and short-lived. Most of these infections in viral arthritis are self-limiting for less than 6 to 12 weeks. Viruses like Chikungunya are known for causing recurrent and frequently chronic arthritis.

Laboratory Tests:

Inflammatory markers, autoantibodies, and serology: Confirmation of viral arthritis.

Serology testing: To identify the type of virus.

IgM antibody response: Acute infection (within six weeks).

IgG isotype: Chronic infection (after six weeks).

How Do You Treat Viral Arthritis?

Symptomatic treatment is used when viral arthritis has been present for less than six weeks. The basis of treatment is NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications). Low-dose Corticosteroids should only be used if NSAIDs cannot be prescribed.

How Long Does Viral Arthritis Last?

Depending on the type of viral infection, viral arthritis can last from days to weeks. Rarely can it become a chronic condition like hepatitis.

How Do You Get Rheumatoid Arthritis From a Viral Infection?

Viruses such as parvovirus and EBV may cause rheumatoid arthritis. RA is characterized by early morning stiffness of joints, inflammation of joints in three or more regions, and the presence of arthralgia for more than six weeks. RA can also be confirmed with the presence of RA factor and ANA.


Understanding that many of these viral arthritis diseases are linked to increased levels of inflammatory markers is important. The titers for these markers are often modest and temporary, as repeatedly stated. A referral to a rheumatologist might be wise if the arthralgia and joint swelling persist or get worse despite the fact that many of these cases may be treated in a primary care setting.

Last reviewed at:
02 Mar 2023  -  4 min read




Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Related Questions & Answers

Reactive Arthritis - Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Article Overview: Infection in another part of the body causing joint pain and swelling is known as reactive arthritis. To know more about the condition read the article below. Read Article

Rajesh Gayakwad
Rajesh Gayakwad
Orthopedician And Traumatology

What Is Reactive Arthritis? Reactive arthritis is inflammatory arthritis caused by a distant infection in joints where no cultivable bacteria exist. Although alternative sites of infection have been documented, the main infection usually occurs in the gastrointestinal (GI) or genitourinary (GU) trac...  Read Article

Viral Conjunctivitis - Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Article Overview: Viral conjunctivitis is the most common cause for conjunctivitis, accounting for upto 75% of the cases. For more details, read the article below. Read Article

Gopal R. Damani
Gopal R. Damani
Ophthalmology (Eye Care)

Introduction: Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is due to the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a thin semitransparent membrane that covers the sclera. It is due to a bacteria, virus, or allergy. Because the signs and symptoms are seen in other conditions also, a thorough medical and ophthalmic hist...  Read Article

Bacterial Arthritis - Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prognosis

Article Overview: Bacterial arthritis is typically divided into gonococcal and non-gonococcal arthritis (NGA). Non-gonococcal arthritis is of greatest concern. Read to know more. Read Article

Kaushal Bhavsar
Kaushal Bhavsar
Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

What Is Bacterial Arthritis? Bacteria can enter your joint and cause rapid cartilage and bone degradation leading to inflammation of a joint. It is also known as septic arthritis or bacterial arthritis. Joint inflammation caused by an infectious agent—typically a bacterial one, but occasionally a...  Read Article

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Arthritis or Viral Arthritis?

Ask a Doctor Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.