Viral Arthritis

Viral arthritis causes inflammation and swelling in one or more joints. Viral infections cause this condition. Symptoms can include achy and painful joints and can last until the viral infection clears. Treatment typically includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).


What is viral arthritis?

Viral arthritis is when you have pain, inflammation and swelling in one or more joints due to a viral infection. Joints typically become painful and swollen quickly, often over a few hours or days. Viral arthritis is also called post-viral arthritis.


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Who does viral arthritis affect?

Anyone can get viral arthritis. This condition can occur when you have a viral infection. Adults are more likely than children to get viral arthritis.

How will viral arthritis affect me?

Viral arthritis causes your joints to become achy and swollen quickly. Viral arthritis is different from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which are long-term (chronic) conditions.


How common is viral arthritis?

Researchers don’t know exactly how many people get viral arthritis each year. Some researchers estimate that about 1% of arthritis symptoms that occur suddenly — known as acute-onset arthritis — are due to viruses.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of viral arthritis?

The symptoms of viral arthritis vary depending on the type of viral infection you have. Symptoms can include:


Which viruses can cause viral arthritis?

Viral arthritis occurs when you have a viral illness. You may develop this condition if you’re infected with:

Diagnosis and Tests

How do healthcare providers diagnose viral arthritis?

A healthcare provider does a physical examination. They may recommend a blood test to confirm viral arthritis.

The blood test checks for certain antibodies in your blood. Antibodies show that your immune system is fighting a virus that might be causing arthritis symptoms.

Management and Treatment

What is the treatment for viral arthritis?

Your healthcare provider may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain. If you have hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV, your provider may treat the underlying infection with antiviral medications.

Follow your provider’s instructions for managing pain and swelling. If your provider prescribed antiviral drugs, take all medications as directed.

How long does viral arthritis last?

Most people with viral arthritis feel better in a few weeks. Typically, once the infection clears, you won’t have ongoing pain or swelling in your joints.


How can I reduce my risk of viral arthritis?

You can reduce your risk of viral arthritis by protecting yourself from viral infections. You should:

  • Avoid injecting drugs with needles (unless directed by a healthcare provider).
  • Drink clean water.
  • Get any vaccinations your healthcare provider recommends.
  • Practice safe sex and use condoms.
  • Prevent mosquito bites.

How do I know if I’m at risk for viral arthritis?

You might be at risk for viral arthritis if you:

  • Have many sex partners.
  • Travel to areas where certain viruses are common.
  • Use IV drugs.
  • Work in a healthcare setting.

Is viral arthritis contagious?

Viral arthritis isn’t contagious. But many of the viruses that cause viral arthritis are contagious.

Outlook / Prognosis

What’s the outlook for viral arthritis?

The outlook for viral arthritis is good. The condition is curable — it usually resolves when the viral infection ends.

Living With

How do I take care of myself if I have viral arthritis?

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for how to manage pain and swelling. Tell your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening symptoms.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Viral arthritis occurs when certain viral infections cause pain, inflammation and swelling in your joints. This condition typically happens quickly, causing symptoms in a few hours or days. Healthcare providers treat viral arthritis with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and, occasionally, with antiviral medications.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/09/2022.

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