Inflammatory arthritis

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

The term “arthritis" means inflammation of the joints (derived from the Greek, “arthron” = joint and “itis” = inflammation.

So the term inflammatory arthritis refers to those diseases of joints where the immune system is causing inflammation in the joint. The most common types are rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudogout, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatic fever, reactive arthritis, viral or post-viral arthritis (occurring after an infection), and the spondylarthropathies (inflammatory diseases of the spine). These different types of arthritis all have many features in common.

Early on in the course of disease it may be difficult and even impossible to make a specific diagnosis as to the type of inflammatory arthritis. As a rule, any type of arthritis can affect any joint, but some patterns of affected joints are typical of particular types of arthritis.

The characteristic symptoms of inflammatory arthritis are pain, swelling, and warmth of one or more joints. Stiffness of the joints when getting up in the morning, or after sitting for a length of time is very common. This is sometimes the first

symptom. These symptoms may begin after a minor illness such a sore throat or a cold, or may even be associated with a period of emotional stress. Usually, there is no identifiable cause.

If symptoms persist or get worse it is likely an inflammatory form of arthritis. The assessment of arthritis includes a history and physical examination (arthritis can affect other tissues such as skin and eyes), blood tests (to help measure the severity) and imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (to see if the joints are damaged).

The blood tests may include a rheumatoid factor which is a protein present in the blood of some patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an anti-CCP, which is another rheumatoid arthritis-associated antibody, an anti-nuclear antibody, which can be found in lupus, and an ESR or CRP. These latter are blood tests which can give an indication of how active the arthritis is, and are useful for measuring the effectiveness of treatment.

The keys to treatment are to relieve pain and inflammation, restore function, and slow down or stop the progression of disease. These goals are met by establishing the diagnosis as quickly as possible and initiating aggressive therapy.

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