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Parvovirus B19 Arthritis

Updated on September 27, 2010


Although rare and poorly understood, some people will exhibit symptoms of arthritis from contracting the parvovirus B-19.

The parvovirus B-19 is also called B19 virus is a human virus that causes what is known as fifth disease or slapped cheek syndrome. A normal cycle for the B19 virus lasts about one week following exposure. Most commonly contracted by children, the B19 virus can cause an uncomfortable and even unsightly rash that can last for a number of weeks.

Very Rarely Contracted and Poorly Understood

Most adults are immune to infection due to prior exposure as a child. There is no vaccine to treat B19 virus. Unfortunately, in a number of adults, women being twice as likely as men, will contract the B19 virus and express seronegative arthritis symptoms. These symptoms are very similar to rheumatoid arthritis including painful swollen joints that will last on average several weeks and possibly months or years following diagnoses.

If you experience painful joint swelling, consult your physician/doctor. The research regarding exposure to B19 parvovirus in older women who experience arthritis symptoms seems limited. However, since the condition is short lived for most women, there has not been much interest in this area of research.

In some cases, the joints can swell so badly that walking may become difficult. Any joints can be affected, but the most common are in the fingers and toes. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, the B19 virus is not known to progress and will go away within time. Rheumatoid arthritis can continue over a lifetime leading to long-term disability with mobility.


Test for RA, Lymes, and B19

A doctor will diagnose parvovirus B19 by first examining the extent of the swelling in the joints and rate the pain. Since it is difficult to tell the difference between arthritis of B19 and arthritis of RA the physician will run a multitude of tests. They test for the rheumatoid factors and antibodies in the blood. The doctor may also do a blood test to look for Lymes Disease. And, there is an antibody blood test the physician can check to see if you have been exposed to the B19 virus.

Aside from seronegative laboratory results, parvovirus B19 can be distinguished from rheumatoid arthritis by the symptoms of the condition. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis typically have swelling and pain in the morning whereas people with the B19 virus will become more painful as the day progresses.



The only treatments available are to help alleviate the symptoms associated with B19 virus arthritis and the only known recommended treatment is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen (Advil). NSAIDs have analgesic (relieve pain) and anti-inflammatory (reduce swelling) properties that may provide some relief. If you have any doubt about what medications to take please consult a professional.


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