When a bursa is not only inflamed but also infected, it is called septic bursitis. Unlike most cases of aseptic bursitis, septic bursitis is a potentially serious medical condition and prompt medical attention is advisable.

An estimated 20% of bursitis cases are septic.

A bursa may become infected if an infectious bacteria or other microorganism enters the bursa through a cut, scrape, puncture, bug bite or other means. It is possible to have septic bursitis without an obvious entry point on the skin; sometimes the origin of infection is unknown.

See What Is a Bursa?

Certain conditions and medications suppress people's immune systems or affect circulation, making them more susceptible to developing septic bursitis. For example, people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lupus, alcoholism, or diabetes may have compromised immune systems and be more likely to get septic bursitis.


Septic Bursitis Symptoms

In addition to the typical symptoms of bursitis, such as local pain and/or swelling at a joint, there are specific indicators that the bursa may be infected. The main symptoms of an infection include:

  • Extreme warmth and redness of the skin at the joint
  • Acute tenderness of the bursa
  • Fever or chills
  • Joint pain
  • Generally feeling sick

Distinguishing between aseptic and septic bursitis can be challenging. If there is any doubt as to whether a bursa may be infected then a consultation with a doctor should be obtained.

An aspiration of the affected bursa and lab tests on the synovial fluid will help identify many but not all cases of septic bursitis. If left untreated, the bursa may eventually fill with pus and the infection may travel into the bloodstream.


Septic Bursitis Treatment

Septic bursitis requires medical attention and antibiotic treatment to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body or into the bloodstream. If septic bursitis is suspected, medical attention should be sought promptly.

Oral antibiotics are typically sufficient to treat the infection. However, if the infection is advanced, or if the patient has other complicating factors, antibiotics may be administered intravenously.

Further Reading: What Is Bursitis?