What are the general characteristics of viral arthritis?
Viral arthritis constitutes approximately 1% of acute arthritis. Virtually all viruses can cause arthralgia and many patients experience an acute self-limited, nonerosive, inflammatory arthritis (in a pattern that may mimic rheumatoid arthritis [RA]), which rarely becomes chronic. When a viral arthritis is suspected, an accurate history (with exposures and travel) and a careful physical examination are essential to diagnosis. While antiviral antibody titers may be helpful diagnostically, the majority of causative viruses have not yet been described or serologic tests have not been developed for clinical use. Therefore, the diagnosis of viral arthritis is usually presumptive and retrospective based on the history and physical examination and resolution of arthritis within weeks to months after minimal therapy.