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HealthInfo Canterbury

Overview of rheumatoid & psoriatic arthritis

Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are forms of arthritis called "inflammatory arthritis". In both of these conditions, your body mistakenly uses its immune system to attack the area between your joints. This can damage your joints, and cause joint pain and loss of joint function.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can start at any age although it most commonly starts in middle age and affects more women than men. The cause of RA isn't known.

Symptoms of inflammatory arthritis

The symptoms of inflammatory arthritis are:

However, these symptoms can also occur in other forms of arthritis and other diseases.

Diagnosing inflammatory arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis can be difficult to diagnose as other conditions can have the same symptoms.

Your GP may ask you about your symptoms and how long you've had them. They will also examine your affected joints.

They may want to rule out other conditions such as septic arthritis and gout.

If your doctor suspects you have inflammatory arthritis, or is concerned about your symptoms, they may suggest you have some blood tests. You may also have joint X-rays to see if your joints are being damaged by your arthritis. Sometimes you will also have an MRI scan to look at the joints in more detail.

You will be usually be referred to a rheumatology specialist to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating inflammatory arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis treatment aims to both treat the symptoms and prevent the disease from getting worse. The sooner you start medication for inflammatory arthritis the better.

There are also newer type of medications known as biologics which are also used to prevent inflammatory arthritis from getting worse.

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On the next page: Self-care with inflammatory arthritis

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

Page reference: 439024

Review key: HIRPA-18707