Septic Bursitis: The Serious Side of Bursitis

A common cause of joint pain is bursitis, which occurs when the thin protective sac that covers a joint—the bursa— becomes inflamed.

Hip Bursitis
Septic bursitis, when the bursa becomes infected, occurs in about 1 in 5 cases of bursitis.

In fact, you may be relieved to find out you have bursitis, since it's not a degenerative condition like osteoarthritis.

However, 1 in 5 cases of bursitis become infected, which is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention. This is known as septic bursitis.

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Septic bursitis occurs when bacteria enters the bursa through a cut, puncture, or some other undetermined means. The origin of some infections are unknown. People who have a weakened immune system because of a condition like cancer, HIV, or diabetes are at greater risk for septic bursitis.

Many of the symptoms of septic bursitis are similar to regular bursitis: pain, swelling, and tenderness of the area immediately above the joint.

However, a few symptoms are specific to septic bursitis:

  • Extreme warmth or redness to the area above the joint
  • Extreme tenderness to the area above the joint
  • Fever or chills
  • General feelings of sickness

It can be difficult to tell the difference between bursitis and septic bursitis, which is why it's important to see a doctor if you have symptoms. He or she can make a diagnosis, possibly by extracting a small amount of fluid from the joint to test it for infection.

If you have symptoms of septic bursitis, it's important to seek treatment promptly, because an untreated infection can spread to the bloodstream and other parts of the body. But once the infection is detected, it can be treated with antibiotics.

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Post written by Carrie DeVries