Understanding If Arthritis Is Contagious

You might wonder when you come in contact with someone with arthritis whether it is contagious and you might catch it from them. If you were just diagnosed with arthritis, you might have questions about why you developed the condition and if it was transmitted to you by another person with arthritis. You might even have developed reactive arthritis following an infection and worry you might give arthritis to a family member.

Woman holding her hand in pain

Arthritis Is Not Contagious

The short answer is no—arthritis is not contagious. A contagious disease is defined as an infectious disease that is communicable by contact with a person who has it through a bodily discharge or with an object touched by the infected individual. Arthritis is not a contagious or communicable disease.

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They are not known to be caused by a bacteria, fungus, or virus. Their patterns of occurrence (epidemiology) don't match diseases that are contagious. You don't have to worry about catching arthritis from people who have these conditions.

A few less-common types of arthritis develop after due to an immune reaction after an infection or when a joint becomes infected, but the arthritis itself isn't communicable by human-to-human transmission.

Infectious and Reactive Arthritis

Reactive arthritis and infectious arthritis are two types that people may suspect are contagious, but like other types of arthritis, they are not contagious. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), "Reactive arthritis is not contagious; that is, a person with the disorder cannot pass the arthritis on to someone else. However, the bacteria that can trigger reactive arthritis can be passed from person to person."

Reactive arthritis can develop after infection with respiratory or sexually-transmitted infection with Chlamydia, or digestive tract infections with Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, and Campylobacter. If you have these infections, you can pass the infection on to someone else, but not the reactive arthritis. Whether you get that or not depends on a genetic susceptibility and other unknown factors. Reactive arthritis develops weeks after the infection that triggers it.

Septic Arthritis, and Viral Arthritis

Similarly, with septic arthritis or viral arthritis. The organisms that cause septic arthritis are transmitted to the joint via an injury, surgery, or through the blood. Contact with a person with septic arthritis won't transmit the arthritis. But if the organism is still active in other parts of their body, they can transmit it in the usual way and cause the usual disease.

For example, group B streptococcus can cause septic arthritis in children and they might be contagious for strep. Neisseria gonorrhoeae can cause septic arthritis, and if it hasn't been treated, it can be sexually transmitted to cause gonorrhea.

Arthritis Risk Factors

If you have the same risk factors as a friend or relative who has arthritis, you may be at an increased risk of the disease. These factors include age, gender, genetics, obesity, joint injury, infection, occupation, smoking, and family history.

You won't catch arthritis from another person, but you might discuss with your healthcare providers if there are risk factors you can control.

A Word From Verywell

Sometimes the effects of arthritis can be scary, but there is no reason to avoid contact with a person with arthritis. You should use usual infection-reducing precautions for washing your hands, shielding sneezes and coughs, and practicing safer sex. Also, some people with arthritis may be on medications that can impair the immune system and they may need to take additional precautions to avoid catching diseases from you.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer covering arthritis and chronic illness, who herself has been diagnosed with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.