Definition of Inflammatory Arthritis
Inflammatory arthritis is a group of specific arthritic conditions that are based on a shared underlying pathology. These diseases include: Rheumatoid arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis and Psoriatic arthritis. These are all immune-mediated. Arthritis is one major symptom in these diseases.
Causes of Inflammatory Arthritis
Inflammatory arthritis is an autoimmune syndrome. An autoimmune syndrome or disease can be defined as the body’s defense mechanism attacking its own self as if it were a foreign thing. Scientists have not been able to explain why the body suddenly behaves this way. Several risk factors have been shown to contribute to the development of inflammatory arthritis including:
- Cigarette smoking
- Hormonal imbalance
- Infectious diseases i.e. bacterial or viral
- Genetic predisposition
- Family history
Symptoms of Inflammatory Arthritis
Inflammatory arthritis tends to exhibit all of the 5 cardinal signs of joint inflammation.
- Localized redness
- Localized warmth
- Loss of function
In addition to the cardinal signs, morning stiffness and other systemic manifestations are also important in establishing an accurate diagnosis of an inflammatory arthritis disease. Morning stiffness in arthritis tends to last at least 30 minutes or more. Unlike Osteoarthritis, a degenerative form of arthritis where stiffness lasts less than 30 minutes.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: joint involvement is symmetrical with a predilection for the joints of the hands, feet and spine. Other joints can be affected as well. Joint deformity is typical. Systemic manifestations are often present.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: joints of the hand especially the joints close to the fingernails. Involvement of joint deformity can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. One joint (monoarticular) or many joints (polyarticular) may be affected.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: characterized by night joint pain, severe enough to wake a person. Occurs primarily in the spinal joints. Stiffness, limiting movement of the upper body is a common symptom.
Treatment of Inflammatory Arthritis
The main goal of treatment for inflammatory arthritis is to relieve the symptoms and prevent further destruction of joint structures. This requires a deep understanding of these arthritic diseases. Pharmacological therapy is given according to the severity of symptoms and the stage of the disease. Dr. Burke, an orthopedic specialist, spends quality time with a patient to carefully elicit signs and symptoms which enable him to determine which mode of treatment to use, the doses and the duration. He offers the following treatment plans:
- Local steroid injections
- Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDS)
- Immunosuppressing drugs
- Interleukin receptor blockers
- Surgical intervention e.g. joint replacement