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Is there a link between osteoarthritis and infection?

Q) I'm 56 and have suffered from osteoarthritis since my 20s. One hip was resurfaced six years ago. I keep active by going to the gym twice weekly but am rarely completely free of pain in various joints. A recent tooth abscess and two weeks of antibiotics seemed to have the most welcome side-effect. While taking the course I awoke and remained pain-free throughout the day. Is there a link between osteoarthritis and infection?
Gill, West Midlands (Summer 2010)

A) The short answer is no. In fact the only evidence of a link between osteoarthritis and infection is that joints in which an infection has occurred often become severely and prematurely damaged by osteoarthritis at some point after the infection has cleared. In your case it's fascinating to hear of your improvement. I wonder if the antibiotic you were taking has some other pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory property? Could the improvement have resulted from all the additional painkillers you were taking for the tooth abscess?

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Summer 2010 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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