Arthritis or arthralgias are common presentations to general practice. Many cases are self-limiting and are presumed to be due to viral infections. However, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other types of systemic inflammatory arthritis may be difficult to differentiate from viral arthritis, yet require early intervention to improve long-term outcomes. Some serious but treatable viral infections, such as hepatitis and HIV, may present with joint symptoms, and it is axiomatic that these conditions should be identified and managed appropriately. Some viral infections may cause more prolonged symptoms and their recognition, and particularly differentiation from early inflammatory arthritis, is important in determining prognosis. This article focuses on the clinical features and recognition of different types of viral arthritis, and provides guidance on investigations, referral and treatment
Arthralgia is a common presentation to general practice, and many cases will not require any specific treatment. It is important to differentiate viral arthritis from other causes as early intervention in inflammatory arthritis has been shown to improve long-term outcome.