Septic arthritis is an infectious disease emergency, requiring aggressive joint drainage and prompt antibiotic therapy. Because age and joint damage are major risk factors, septic arthritis may become more common as the baby-boom generation reaches senescence. Bacteremic joint infections have a high mortality, and long-term disability from joint damage is common. Lyme arthritis has a negligible mortality and low morbidity but causes disproportionate popular anxiety. Most patients with Lyme arthritis respond well to oral antibiotic regimens and recover completely. A few patients develop antibiotic-resistant Lyme arthritis, which is probably autoimmune in nature and responds to immunosuppressive therapy. This paper reviews the presentation, diagnosis, and management of bacterial and Lyme arthritis. Septic arthritis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae and group B streptococci may be increasing in prevalence. Prospective studies are required to determine whether there is any benefit of surgical or arthroscopic joint drainage in septic arthritis, compared with serial arthrocentesis, and to determine the role of corticosteroid therapy in septic arthritis in adults, if any.