Inflammatory arthritis is a chronic systemic disorder that involves the inflammation of various organs and tissues. The most common kind of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis that principally attacks synovial joints. The disease is also known to attack various tissues and organs. The disease develops as an autoimmune reaction, when the immune system attacks the synovium. Synovium is the lining of the membranes that surround the joints. As a result of chronic inflammation, the synovium thickens resulting in destruction of the cartilage and bone within the joint. As the disease progresses, the tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together weaken and stretch and the joint loses its shape and alignment.
Other types of inflammatory arthritis
Several connective tissue diseases, including the spondyloarthropathies, cause prominent joint inflammation. This inflammation is similar to rheumatoid arthritis, but they have negative rheumatoid factors. Among the spondyloarthropathies are psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of joint inflammation that occurs in some people who have psoriasis of the skin or nails. The disease looks like rheumatoid arthritis but it isn’t characterized by the production of the antibodies characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis can occur in up to 40% of people with psoriasis.
Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter syndrome, is an inflammation of the joints and tendon attachments at the joints, often related to an infection. The joint inflammation seems to be a reaction to an infection originating in the gastrointestinal or genitourinary tract.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a disorder distinguished by inflammation of the spine and large joints, resulting in stiffness and pain. The disease occurs more frequently among men than women, emerging usually between the ages of 20 and 40. The most prominent symptom is back pain, accompanied with stiffness, often worsening at night.
Causes of inflammatory arthritis
In most cases, doctors are not quite sure about what starts this process. As any other autoimmune disease, inflammatory arthritis occurs at the moment, when the human body mistakenly starts to attack its own tissues. This happens when the body confuses its own tissues with foreign objects. It is very likely that inflammatory arthritis occurs in people who have a genetic component, which makes them suitable for the disease. However, genetic heritage is insufficient for the disease to develop, but it can certainly make one more susceptible to environmental factors, such as infections with certain viruses and bacteria that may trigger the disease.