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What Is Inflammatory Arthritis?

Inflammatory arthritis (IA) is a type of arthritis that causes joint inflammation. In this condition, your immune system is attacking the joints in your body, which are frequently inflamed due to an overactive immune system. This form of arthritis is much less frequent than osteoarthritis (OA), which affects mostly older people with wear and tear on their joints.

Osteoarthritis vs. Inflammatory Arthritis: What is the difference?

The major difference between inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is that:

  • Osteoarthritis is caused by physical factors like wear and tear of a joint over a long period of time (or sometimes over a short time as a result of an injury).
  • Inflammatory arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that results in inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. Your immune system identifies non harmful body tissues as harmful germs or pathogens. It then attacks them, resulting in inflammation.

Because osteoarthritis is caused by physical wear on joints in the body, it is most often seen in people after the age of 50. Unfortunately, the older you get, the more likely you are to develop osteoarthritis.

Since inflammatory arthritis is a chronic disease, it can affect people of all ages. In many cases, adults are diagnosed in their peak working and child-rearing years. Inflammatory arthritis can often be diagnosed in patients as young as age 20 or 30. Inflammatory arthritis is more common in females than in males. Children and teens may also be diagnosed with a form of childhood arthritis, such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis — although this is much less common. It is not understood exactly why IA occurs more frequently among women than men; however, some experts believe that immunologic differences may play a role.

Signs And Symptoms Of Inflammatory Arthritis

The most common symptoms of inflammatory arthritis are:

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness after periods of rest or inactivity, especially in the morning
  • Swelling, redness and/or a feeling of warmth in the affected joints
  • Inflammation of other areas in the body, which can affect internal organs like the lungs and heart
  • "Flares" of highly intense symptoms alternating with periods of inactivity

What are the different types of inflammatory arthritis?

The major types of inflammatory arthritis include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lyme disease
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Gout and pseudogout
  • Lupus
  • Psoriatic arthritis

Detecting and treating inflammatory arthritis before it gets too severe is the key to preventing certain complications from developing. Some people may experience swelling, stiffness or other symptoms of inflammation due to inflammatory arthritis, which if left untreated can worsen over time. Early detection as well as a regular treatment plan will help you properly care for your symptoms and take steps to reduce potential risks associated with the disease and save yourself from future discomfort.

How is inflammatory arthritis treated?

Inflammatory arthritis is typically treated with a combination of medicine (such as steroids or immunosuppressive drugs) that decided to relieve swelling and pain, as well as regulate the immune system. To aid healing and to prevent loss of mobility or joint function, patients should strive to balance periods of rest (which can help to prevent flare ups) and activity (which helps prevent joints from becoming too stiff).

Like with osteoarthritis, if nonsurgical methods fail to provide lasting relief, your doctor may prescribe joint replacement surgery. This procedure is recommended when a number of non-surgical methods have failed to relieve pain and restore mobility.

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