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Tuberculous arthritis is an infection of the joints due to tuberculosis .

See also: Spondylitis

Alternative Names:

Granulomatous arthritis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Approximately 2% of people who have tuberculosis will develop this form of arthritis . The joints most often involved are the:

  • Ankles
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Spine
  • Wrists

Most cases involve just one joint.

Tuberculosis involving the spine is often referred to as Pott's disease. The fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame had a humpback that is thought to have been caused by tuberculosis.


Note: The condition usually starts slowly and may involve only one joint.

Signs and tests:

A physical examination shows swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the joint.



You will take antibiotics to destroy the bacteria that are causing the tuberculosis infection. These medications are often given for several months (6 - 18 months).

Taking painkillers and applying heat or cold to the joints may relieve pain. Surgery may be needed, especially to drain spinal abscesses or to stabilize the spine. Surgery is rarely needed for infections at other sites.

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

This form of arthritis can be very destructive to the tissues. Controlling the infection should prevent more joints from becoming involved. However, joint destruction may take place before the infection is controlled.


Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of this disorder, or of tuberculosis.


Controlling the spread of tuberculosis infection can prevent tuberculous arthritis.

Patients who have a positive PPD test (but not active tuberculosis) may decrease their risk of tuberculous arthritis by properly taking medicines to prevent tuberculosis. To effectively treat tuberculosis, it is crucial that patients take their medications exactly as prescribed.


Alparsian L, Yu JS, Weissman BN. Imaging. In: Harris ED, Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, Sledge CB, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005: chap 51.

McCune WJ, Golbus J. Monarticular arthritis. In: Harris ED, Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, Sledge CB, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005: chap 34.

Review Date: 9/17/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, PhD, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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