Joint pains after a viral fever…
With the recent epidemic of viral illnesses in our city, especially dengue, chikungunya, the number of people visiting the OPD with joint pains with or without joint swelling is on an acute rise.
What is viral arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation at the joints. So there is pain, swelling, stiffness at joints. If this occurs during or following a viral infection, it is a viral arthritis. Usually joints of the feet – ankles, toes, hands, wrists, knees are commonly affected.
What are the viruses that can cause an arthritis?
A lot of viruses can trigger arthritis either by directly affecting the joints or by triggering our immunity to act against the joints. The most common viruses causing an arthritis include – Chikungunya, dengue, parvovirus B19 (especially in children), Hepatitis A, B and C, rubella and retroviruses. The recent viral epidemic in our city predominantly was due to either dengue or chikungunya, though in many the exact cause of the viral illness could not be identified.
How long does viral arthritis last?
Viral arthritis is usually self limiting and usually lasts for less than a week. But some patients can progress to a chronic stage where the joint inflammation or joint pains can continue for weeks, months or sometimes even years. This can impair a person’s activities of daily living. Especially with Chikungunya, its been found in the past that 25% of patients with Chikungunya fever can have arthritis for 2 years also.
Who are at risk of developing long term viral arthritis?
The exact reason as to why only a few individuals develop long term viral arthritis is unknown. But it is known that women and people who smoke are at the highest risk of developing a long term arthritis following a viral infection.
What are the treatment options available for viral arthritis?
During the acute phase of illness, simple analgesics like paracetamol itself may be sufficient. More potent analgesics and sometimes low doses of steroids may be needed. For those who have a chronic arthritis, the possibility of a rheumatoid arthritis or any other cause of a chronic arthritis needs to be ruled out. Treatment of a chronic viral arthritis would include disease modifying agents that we usually give for rheumatoid arthritis.
So if joint pains are troubling you after a viral illness, do not bear the pains. Meet your nearest rheumatologist for understanding the reason for the pain and for relief from pains as there are safe enough medications to handle the pains.
About Author –
Dr. Keerthi Talari, Consultant Rheumatologist, Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad
MD, DM (Rheumatology)