Arthritis is a generic medical term that describes well over 100 different conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, and in some cases other tissues and organs. The term inflammatory arthritis refers to any of these arthritic conditions where there is localized joint inflammation with any other type of inflammation in the tissues or organ systems.
There are several different type of inflammatory arthritis that are more commonly diagnosed than others. These include psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis arthritis. All of these conditions result in painful swelling, inflammation and redness in the joint area that results in disability, poor functional use of the joint and reduced range of motion.
Researchers from the Arthritis Research Campaign at the University of Manchester are interested in identifying why the quality of life of a significant number of patients who suffer from arthritis is rated so poorly.
In a health related questionnaire patients who suffer from inflammatory arthritis reported levels of pain that was rated “worse than death” by members of the general population. Rheumatoid arthritis was the most common form of the condition which affect the questionnaire participants. (1)
According to research within 10 years after diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, at least 50% of the sufferers were unable to hold down a full-time job. The researchers believed that the quality of life evaluations may not reflect the current treatments available to relieve pain and that more research is required.
Those who suffer from psoriatic arthritis have joint inflammation concurrent with another skin disease, psoriasis. Interestingly, not all who have psoriasis will go on to develop psoriatic arthritis but all who have psoriatic arthritis will eventually suffer from psoriasis.
The joints that are more commonly involved include the hips, knees, and those close to the tips of the fingers and toes. The doctor will make a diagnosis based on symptoms, using x-ray, blood tests, and other diagnostic imaging studies to rule out other reasons for the inflammatory response in the body.
Treatment includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and the use of some of the new disease modifying medications now available on the market. (2)
Individuals who suffer from Reactive Arthritis (also called Reiter syndrome) will experience inflammation in the joints and tendonal attachments which can be related to an infection.
The inflammation and joint pain will be in response to an infection in the genitourinary tract or gastrointestinal tract. The patient experiences tendon inflammation, skin rashes and red eye. The diagnosis is often made by the symptoms and the physician will look for an underlying infection as the cause.
Treatment will be launched at the underlying infection to stop the cascading effect as well as to decrease the inflammation and pain in the joints with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (3)
Ankylosing spondylitis is another type of inflammatory arthritis and is characterized by inflammation of the spine and large joints that result in stiffness and pain. The patient will experience joint pain, and back stiffness.
The diagnosis will be based on symptoms and imaging studies such as x-ray and MRI. Treatment will be based on both the relief of pain using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, or the administration of methotrexate. Further treatment with tumor necrosis factor can also be effective for ankylosing spndylitis. (4)
Rheumatoid arthritis, also called rheumatoid disease, because of the systemic response in the body to the inflammatory process, is another of the inflammatory arthritic conditions. Diagnosis is made through blood tests, genetic testing and imaging tests. Treatment is aimed at reducing the symptoms of pain, swelling and inflammation, as well as reducing the progression of the disease.
Those who suffer from one of the many different types of inflammatory arthritic conditions should find hope in the continuing research that is investigating both holistic and pharmaceutical approaches to reducing pain and preventing long-term joint disability.
(1) Royal College of Physicians: Osteoarthritis
(2) Arthritis Foundation: Psoriatric Arthritis
(3) University of Maryland Medical Center: Reiter Syndrom
(4) MayoClinic.com: Ankylosing Spondylitis
Spondylitis Association of America