Inflammatory arthritis is typically defined as inflammation of the joints due to infection or an overactive immune system. In general, inflammatory arthritis is viewed as a grouping of other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. However, it should be noted that inflammatory arthritis is different from osteoarthritis. Those with inflammatory arthritis suffer from an underlying chronic autoimmune disease. On the other hand, osteoarthritis occurs after years of physical wear on the joints. Because of these differences, inflammatory arthritis can be seen in patients as young as twenty years old, but osteoarthritis is usually only seen in those above the age of fifty.
Symptoms: The most common symptom of inflammatory arthritis is pain and stiffness at the joints. The pain may range from intermittent to sharp, and can be particularly noticeable after periods of rest and inactivity. Other symptoms include swelling and redness at the affected joints and even inflammation in other parts of the body.
Causes: The cause of inflammatory arthritis is an overactive immune system or infection. When your immune system is in overdrive, it can begin attacking your own joints. This results in the pain, inflammation and swelling seen with inflammatory arthritis.
Diagnosis: Because there are around 100 different types of arthritis and they all present with similar symptoms, diagnosing the exact type of arthritis a patient has can prove to be challenging. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, your healthcare provider will most often conduct a physical exam, paying specific attention to your joints, as well as take a complete history and order appropriate tests.