Arthritis affects millions of people in the United States and worldwide. The term arthritis refers to about 100 types of conditions that induce joint pain, swelling and other symptoms capable of affecting a person’s mobility, flexibility, and quality of life.
Inflammatory arthritis is a commonly used term nowadays but poorly explained. This article aims to change that by providing useful information about inflammatory arthritis and everything it entails.
What is Inflammatory Arthritis?
As mentioned above, arthritis involves about 100 of conditions characterized by joint pain and other symptoms. We can divide all these types of arthritis into two groups: inflammatory and non-inflammatory.
Inflammatory arthritis, as its name suggests, involves the cases when affected person’s joints are inflamed. Inflammation is the body’s defense mechanism i.e. immune response that defends our body from bacteria, viruses and other invaders, promotes wound healing, and strengthens the immune system.
While our body needs a certain amount of inflammation to function properly, persistent i.e. chronic inflammation is bad news that leads to a number of autoimmune conditions and other diseases linked with inflammation, including inflammatory arthritis.
In fact, most prevalent types of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are autoimmune diseases.
The difference between non-inflammatory arthritis (e.g. osteoarthritis) and inflammatory is that the first type is associated with wear and tear or injuries. While they can also involve a certain dose of inflammation, it is not systemic.
On the other hand, a person with inflammatory arthritis doesn’t develop the condition due to injury or wear and tear.
What are the causes of Inflammatory Arthritis?
The exact cause of arthritis is unknown and chances are unlikely there’s one specific answer to that question.
Arthritis occurs due to a number of reasons stemming from injuries to age-related wear and tear. Inflammatory arthritis is, as described above, usually an autoimmune disease.
The autoimmune diseases are conditions wherein the immune system starts attacking healthy cells and tissues assuming they are a threat to your health.
Under normal circumstances, a person’s immune system knows the difference between good and bad bacteria, your own cells, and invaders. In cases of autoimmune conditions, the immunity mistakes a part of your body e.g. joint as foreign and starts attacking it.
The root cause of autoimmunity is unknown, but some people are more likely to have it than others. Heredity, exposure to solvents, pollution, and other environmental factors could play a role together with an unhealthy diet.
Unlike non-inflammatory arthritis which usually affects the elderly, inflammatory type of the condition can affect younger population too. Women are more prone to it than men.
What are the symptoms of Inflammatory Arthritis?
Symptoms of inflammatory arthritis are similar to those of non-inflammatory kind. The affected person may experience the following symptoms in their joints:
- Warmth and tenderness
- Stiffness, particularly in the morning
Bearing in mind that most inflammatory arthritis types are autoimmune conditions that involve systemic inflammation, their symptoms can affect other parts of the body, not just joints. Depending on the type of inflammatory arthritis, these symptoms may involve:
- Weight loss
- Eye inflammation
- Skin rash
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss, and others
What are the types of Inflammatory Arthritis?
As mentioned above, inflammatory arthritis isn’t a single disease, but more of them. Below, you can see the rundown of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – An autoimmune condition which affects lining of the joints, thus causing a painful swelling which later results in bone erosion and deformity of joint
- Psoriatic Arthritis – An autoimmune disease characterized by skin inflammation (psoriasis) and inflammation of joints (arthritis)
- Ankylosing Spondylitis – Primarily affects the spine, but other joints may be involved too. The condition causes inflammation of vertebrae (spinal joints) and leads to severe chronic pain and discomfort. Unlike other types of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis affects men more than women
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis – Formerly known as juvenile RA, the most common type of arthritis in children younger than 16
- Lupus – A chronic autoimmune disease that results in symptoms such as inflammation of joints, skin, blood, kidneys, lungs, and heart
How to Diagnose Inflammatory Arthritis?
Since symptoms of inflammatory arthritis develop gradually, it can be difficult to diagnose the condition. Men and women with persistent joint pain should consult their doctor instead of waiting for a problem to go away.
It is of huge importance to mention all symptoms you have been experiencing to your doctor, even if you think they’re not important.
The doctor carries out a physical exam, checks reflexes, and muscle strength. To rule out other conditions, some tests may be necessary such as:
- Blood Tests – to determine whether there is an inflammatory process in the body
- Imaging Tests – MRI to determine severity of disease and X-ray to track progression
How to Treat Inflammatory Arthritis?
Treatment of inflammatory arthritis depends on the specific condition a patient has developed.
There is no cure that would eliminate inflammatory arthritis and treatment is geared towards management of pain and inflammation.
The doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to alleviate inflammation and pain and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to slow progression of the disease and prevent it from making further damage to joints.
Corticosteroids are yet another but less common, option and its purpose is to halt inflammation from damaging internal organs or joints.
Management of inflammatory arthritis, regardless of the type, also involves making lifestyle adjustments. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet enriched with anti-inflammatory foods.
Get enough sleep and use different tools and aids that make performing daily activities easier e.g. cane, jar opener. Find a way to manage stress (it can be anything you find relaxing) and try to meditate in order to cope with pain and relieve it.
Read Next – What are all the Different Types of Arthritis?
Inflammatory arthritis is a term that refers to different conditions characterized by chronic inflammation and, usually, autoimmunity.
The exact cause of the condition is unknown which is why there is no cure that would eliminate it from our body. Fortunately, we can manage inflammatory arthritis successfully with healthy lifestyle and adherence to treatment that your doctor recommends.
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