Inflammatory arthritis is the name used to describe a group of diseases classified as autoimmune disorders, whereby an overactive immune system results in inflammation. The immune system begins to attack its own tissues and joints instead of foreign substances. This results in joint damage causing deformity, scarring and instability. Inflammatory arthritis is also considered systemic meaning it can also attack the whole body not just the joints. A few of the internal organs that could be affected are the heart, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels.
The most common forms of inflammatory arthritis are: Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Ankylosing Spondylitis and Psoriatic Arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA):
- RA is a chronic inflammatory disorder where your immune system attacks the healthy tissues in your joints. It can also attack your heart, lungs, nerves, eyes and skin.
Some signs and symptoms of RA are:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints,
- Stiffness that’s worse in the morning
- Fatigue fever and loss of appetite
RA usually affects the smaller joints of the fingers and toes first. It will progress to other joints in the body such as wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders, etc.. It will attack the joints on both sides of the body at the same time. Without any treatment the joints will eventually become very painful and debilitating.
In 30-60% of patients with RA, blood tests such as rheumatoid factor (RF) or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (anti-CCP) are positive, helping to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no cure for RA. This inflammatory disease can be very destructive. Doctors recommend early and aggressive treatment since any damage already done cannot be reversed.
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS):
AS is a chronic, progressive disease. A type of arthritis in the spine that cause inflammation and gradual fusing of the vertebrae. Early signs and symptoms include pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips. Although exercise and pain medications may help temporarily, the disease may gradually worsen. The pain and inflammation spreads from the lower back up the spine. Left untreated, the vertebrae fuse together causing a forward curvature of the spine.
The areas most commonly affected are:
- The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis
- The vertebrae in your lower back
- The places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in your spine, but sometimes along the back of your heel
- The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
- Your hip and shoulder joints
There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but treatments can lessen your symptoms and possibly slow progression of the disease.
Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)
PsA is an autoimmune type of inflammatory arthritis that causes joint inflammation and occurs with the skin autoimmune condition psoriasis. About 10-30% of people with psoriasis will get PsA. The symptoms often resemble those of rheumatoid arthritis, but PsA affects joints on just one or both sides of the body.
Other conditions psoriatic arthritis causes:
- Swollen fingers and toes: You may develop painful, sausage-like swelling and deformities of your fingers and toes.
- Foot pain: Especially at the back of your heel (Achilles tendinitis) or in the sole of your foot (plantar fasciitis).
- Lower back pain: Some people develop a condition called spondylitis as a result of psoriatic arthritis. Spondylitis mainly causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and in the joints between your spine and pelvis (sacroiliitis)
Having psoriasis is the single greatest risk factor for developing psoriatic arthritis. People who have pitted, deformed nails are especially likely to develop psoriatic arthritis. Many people with psoriatic arthritis have a parent or a sibling with the disease.
No cure exists for psoriatic arthritis, so treatment focuses on controlling inflammation in your affected joints to prevent joint pain and disability.
Inflammatory arthritis, being an autoimmune disorder, suppressing the immune system with medicine is essential for controlling the progression of the disease, however, that causes a much higher risk of infections.
Suppressing the immune system is suppressing the body’s defense against infectious bacteria and viruses.
Here are some links if you are interested in more information on inflammatory arthritis: