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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Prevention

The best way to prevent infectious arthritis varies depending on the type of infection:

  • Staphylococcal arthritis If you have a staphylococcal infection, antibiotics can be used to prevent this type of arthritis. However, for many people, joint pain and swelling are the first signs of the infection.

  • Gonococcal arthritis You can prevent this type of arthritis by preventing gonorrhea. Practice safe sex or don't have sex.

  • Lyme disease arthritis The best way to prevent arthritis from a Lyme infection is to avoid Lyme disease. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, use tick repellent, and avoid woods, brush and other areas where ticks live. If you live in an area where Lyme disease is common, you can prevent Lyme infection by taking antibiotics soon after finding an attached or engorged deer tick. Similarly, you can prevent Lyme arthritis by taking antibiotics when the rash of Lyme disease is first observed.

  • Tuberculosis-related arthritis A tuberculosis vaccine may help to prevent tuberculosis and any associated arthritis. However, vaccination for tuberculosis is not routine in many parts of the world, including the United States, and the vaccine is only moderately effective. If you have tuberculosis, antibiotics may prevent joint infection and arthritis. If a skin test shows recent exposure to tuberculosis or if a chest X-ray suggests active tuberculosis, antibiotics may stop the infection from spreading into joints.

  • Viral arthritis The best way to avoid arthritis caused by a viral infection is to avoid getting the infection. Wash your hands after you have been around sick children or other people with a viral infection. Ways to prevent hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV include avoiding use of injected drugs, not sharing needles and not having unprotected sex with a person who may be infected.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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