Polyarthritis is a multi-faceted arthritic condition that affects more than one joint at the same time (usually about 4). It is characterized by inflammatory joint pain in the affected area. It can affect any person at any age.
A few common forms of polyarthritis are:
Polyarthritis can be caused by mumps or rubella and other underlying degenerative joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis, cancer, Still’s disease, gout, sarcoidosis, Whipple’s disease, chikungunya or Ross River viruses. Patients with polyarthritis can experience chronic pain from rheumatic or psoriatic arthritis and treatment is mainly focused on reducing the pain and controlling inflammation, and not necessarily trying to cure it.
Symptoms of Polyarthritis
Symptoms of polyarthritis may vary among patients, but some common factors may stem from:
- Hepatitis B and C
- Systemic Lupus
There are a number of other symptoms which may reveal polyarthritis in the system (extra-curricular). These include conditions which affect the eyes, mouth, skin, genitals, parotid glands (major salivary glands in the mouth. The muscles can also be affected by rheumatological diagnoses.
Causes of Polyarthritis
Studies show that the root cause of polyarthritis may have its genesis in the following underlying conditions:
1. Symmetrical Joint Conditions
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Lupus (SLE)
- Viral infections
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
- Drug/serum sickness reactions
Asymmetrical joint conditions
- Psoriatic arthritis (a chronic disease which is a form of inflammation of the skin (psoriasis) and joints (inflammatory)
- Reactive arthritis (a form of arthritis caused by the body’s reaction to an infection by certain bacteria. It usually targets the knees and feet, and can also affects the eyes, skin, and urethra.
2. Viral Infections
- Hepatitis viruses; (especially “B”) since hepatitis affects the liver, many patients complain of joint pain.
- Epstein-Barr Virus (illness associated with fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, sore throat, and sometimes swelling of the spleen)
- HIV (attacks the immune system and can increase a person’s risk of getting polyarthritis)
- Parvovirus (spread through respiratory secretions of saliva, sputum, and nasal mucus of an infected person through sneezing or coughing.
- Chikungunya or Ross River Virus (mosquito-borne illness)
3. Metabolic Conditions
- Wilson’s disease (a rare hereditary disease which prevents the liver from filtering excess copper from the system. These results in copper build up in the liver, eyes, brain, and other organs.
- Amyloidosis (a rare build up of protein produced in the bone marrow that affects the heart, spleen, kidneys, liver and digestive and nervous systems).
- Pseudogout (calcium) formed by deposits of crystals in and around the joints.
- Gout (urate) high levels of uric acid in the blood.
4. Degenerative/Structural conditions
- Osteoarthritis (wearing away of bone cartilage)
- Neuropathic joint pain (nerve trauma)
- Lyme disease
- Well’s disease (leptospirosis)
- Whipple’s disease (a rare bacterial infection that affects the gastrointestinal system)
6. Systematic Vasculitis Disease (Blood Vessels)
- Vasculitis (the immune system attacks the blood vessels).
- Giant cell arthritis (inflammation of the lining of the arteries, usually in the scalp, arms, and neck. It narrows the arteries and prevents blood from flowing freely)
- Hypersensitivity vasculitis
7. Endocrine Diseases
- Hypothyroidism (low/no thyroid function)
- Hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid function)
- Acromegaly (overproduction of growth hormones in the pituitary gland)
- Metastatic cancer: (the spread of cancer from one area to another, e.g lymph nodes to blood stream).
- Multiple myelomas: (abnormal growth of cancer cells of the bone marrow).
- Sarcoidosis (a condition that forms inflammatory cells that affect the lungs skin and lymph nodes)
- Polymyalgia rheumatic
- Sweet’s Syndrome/Wells Syndrome (skin diseases indicated by sudden fever, elevated white blood cell count) may be related to vascular blood disorders).
Treatments of Polyarthritis
Since polyarthritis is complex in its causes, there are a number of factors that may determine the specific types of treatment to help manage the condition:
- The number of joints affected
- The presence of inflammation in the joints
- Underlying symptoms besides joint pain
- Whether joints are asymmetric or symmetric
When carefully considered and diagnosed, however, with early detection, polyarthritis can be treated in a timely manner to help reduce pain and manage the condition.
Treatments Can Include:
1. Medical Intervention
The most commonly prescribed drug for polyarthritis is Methotrexate. It helps reduce further joint damage and preserves joint function.
A. Analgesics (Pain Relievers)
- These are generally available over-the-counter and may be effective in mild symptoms. Conversely, anti-inflammatory steroid medications may help because they have the tendency to work quickly. Some patients may experience negative side effects such as abdominal pain and liver damage if used for prolonged periods.
Corticosteroids may also help by blocking the body’s natural immune response to some of the underlying causes of the condition.
There are a few supplements that may help treat the symptoms of polyarthritis and will include:
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin: are naturally occurring substances found in the cartilage, and bone marrow in the body and also in shellfish, and fungus.
Studies of their effectiveness are inconclusive, but they are believed to help relieve arthritic pain, loss of function, help maintain fluid and joint flexibility and fight rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
2. Lifestyle Changes
It is suggested that symptoms of polyarthritis may be minimized with a few lifestyle changes including:
Weight Management (control your body weight to help reduce pain and pressure on joints)
Eat Healthy ( a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains a reduction of sugar, fat, and salt)
Extra Body Support: Sleeping on a firmer mattress (in some patients)
3. Regular Exercise
Exercise has shown to help reduce stiffness and chronic pain in the body. Helpful choices include:
Low-impact exercises such as swimming (engaging all the major muscles at once).
Tai Chi: an ancient Chinese form of exercise, incorporates graceful movements that claims to help improve joint pain, increase flexibility, agility, muscle strength, and balance. Evidence suggests it may also help to enhance the immune system.
Stretching: movements help increase flexibility and range of motion.
Aerobic: (increasing the heart rate) and strengthening (resistance).
Polyarthritis is a complex condition that must be treated in its early stages to help manage and control the associated symptoms. It varies in patients, so careful planning with your physician along with lifestyle changes can be beneficial.