Arthritis may develop when fungi invade the joints. Fungal arthritis is a rare form of arthritis that usually affects the knees. Diabetes, cirrhosis, tuberculosis, alcoholism or prolonged use of corticosteroid or cytotoxic medications increases the risk of fungal arthritis. People with severely weakened immune system are especially susceptible to fungal arthritis.
In most cases, fungal arthritis develops when a fungal infection in another part of the body such as lungs spreads to the joint. This form of fungal arthritis develops slowly. It usually takes several days for the symptom of arthritis to appear before the initial infection. In a smaller number of cases, the fungi enter the joint directly through a wound or contaminated needle.
Common Causes of Fungal Arthritis
The Candida yeast normally lives in the moist areas of the body such as the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, skin and vagina. In normal conditions, the healthy microbe flora in these areas of the body prevents overgrowth of the Candida yeast. However, when the normal defense mechanism of the body is disrupted due to some reason, the Candida yeast starts multiplying, leading to Candidiasis or Candida infection.
Candida overgrowth may occur in the joint when corticosteroid is injected into a previously damaged joint. The fungi can be introduced in the joint when tools contaminated with the fungi are used in surgery of the joints. Respiratory or gastrointestinal infections involving a Candida strain may spread to the joints, leading to inflammation and pain of the affected joints.
Coccidioides immitis is a fungus found in the deserts of southwestern United States, Central and South America and north Mexico. When inhaled, the spores of the fungus cause pulmonary infection, also known as valley fever or Coccidioidosis. Fungal arthritis due to Coccidioidosis develops when the fungus enters the bloodstream from the lungs and settles in the joints.
Only 1 percent of all people suffering from Coccidioidosis related lung infection have a risk of developing fungal arthritis. The risk of Coccidioidosis is higher among certain ethnic groups such as African Americans and Filipinos. Although arthritis may affect any joint, the knees and ankles are especially vulnerable to Coccidioidosis.
Blastomycosis is a type of fungal infection caused by the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis. This fungus is usually found in the river valleys of Ohio and Mississippi, Central and South America, Canada and Africa.
Inhaling the spores of the fungus causes fungal infection of the lungs. From here, the fungi may spread to the joints. The knees are most affected by Blastomycotic arthritis. Occasionally, this fungal arthritis may affect the ankle, elbow, hand and wrist.
Histoplasma capsulatum is a type of fungus found in the temperate regions of the world. It is found in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys, Europe, Australia and North and South America. When inhaled, the spores of the fungi attack the immune system, causing influenza like syndrome. In people with severely weakened immune system, the fungal infection may spread to the joints. Migratory arthritis that affects multiple joints is a common sign of Histoplasmosis arthritis.
The fungus Sporothrix schenckii is present in vegetations. Sporotrichosis usually develops when the fungus enters the body through an injury while working in fields.
In a small number of cases people with compromised immune system working as farmers, rose gardeners or horticulturists develop the fungal infection after inhaling the spores of the fungus.
Cryptococcus neoformans is a yeast-like fungus found in pigeon droppings. In some cases, it may cause fungal arthritis. Arthritis usually develops in people with compromised immune system. Arthritis may affect single or multiple joints.
Aspergillus is a fungus that occasionally causes infections. It is usually found in the mucus plugs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. In a small number of cases, the fungus attacks the joints.