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Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis (IA) usually involves many joints throughout the body at the same time. It is caused by an overactive immune system, which results in joint inflammation. This results in pain and stiffness after periods of rest or inactivity, particularly in the morning. Swelling, redness and warmth may also be present in the affected joints. Other areas in the body can also be affected by the inflammation as well, including the skin and internal organs such as the lungs and heart.

Inflammatory forms of arthritis are much less common than osteoarthritis (OA). Although there are several differences between IA and OA, the major distinction is that osteoarthritis most commonly presents in people after the age of 50 and increases in frequency with age, while inflammatory arthritis tends to affect people of all ages, often striking people in their peak working and child-rearing age. IA can often be diagnosed as early as age 20 or 30, and it is more common in women than in men.

The major types of inflammatory arthritis include the following:

Inflammatory arthritis is usually treated with a combination of medications to relieve swelling and pain while regulating the immune system. As with osteoarthritis, joint replacement surgery should also be considered when these nonsurgical methods have failed to provide lasting benefit.

When detected and treated early, arthritis can be halted in its tracks. The Early Arthritis Initiative of the Inflammatory Arthritis Center connects patients quickly and efficiently with a rheumatologist who can evaluate their joint pain and get each patient started on an appropriate course of treatment. HSS also offers specialized patient education and support programs for conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Inflammatory arthritis is usually treated with a combination of medications that relieve swelling and pain along with others, such as steroids or immunosuppressive drugs, that regulate the immune system. People with inflammatory arthritis generally experience alternating periods of 'flares' (high intensity) of their symptoms with periods of inactivity. To prevent loss of mobility and joint function, it is essential that patients strive to balance between periods of rest (which can help to prevent flare of symptoms) and activity (which helps prevent joints from becoming too stiff).

If detected and treated in its early stages, the effects of inflammatory arthritis can be greatly diminished and the condition may even disappear completely. The importance of proper diagnosis, particularly in the early stages of the disease, may prevent serious, lifelong arthritic complications.

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