Inflammatory Arthritis: Symptoms and Risk Factors

It’s Arthritis Awareness Month, and according to The Arthritis Society (Canada), arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints of the body, resulting in pain, stiffness, redness, and swelling. The most common joints affected by arthritis are hips, knees, the spine, fingers, and other joints. If untreated, the inflammation from arthritis can cause disability courtesy of damaged joints, and in some cases, affect internal organs.

The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis, affecting one in 10 adults and is usually due to aging, injury, or other stresses on joints; and inflammatory arthritis, which can affect the whole body.

Inflammatory arthritis occurs when the body’s defense system attacks the tissues of joints, resulting in stiffness, pain and irreversible joint damage that can cause joints to change shape, shift out of place, and develop deformities over time. Early treatment of inflammatory arthritis is critical in order to prevent damage to joints and organs. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis  (vertebrae in the spine fuse together) are the most common forms of inflammatory arthritis.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis can affect children and adults of all ages. If you’ve had joint pain for 6 weeks or more, make an appointment with your doctor and use The Arthritis Society’s Arthritis Symptom Checker tool to help identify the symptoms you are experiencing.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of:

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms usually affect both sides of the body equally and may include:

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
  • Fatigue, fever and weight loss

Fingers and toes tend to be affected first by rheumatoid arthritis, before progresses to wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can vary in severity and sometimes are subject to flare ups and periods of remission. Approximately 40% of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers also have non-joint body structures affected by the disease, including organs, skin, nerve tissue, bone marrow, and blood vessels. 

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms can affect joints on both sides or only one side of your body. Symptoms are very similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms, but psoriatic arthritis symptoms can also include

  • swollen fingers and toes, hands and feet. These symptoms can occur before you have joint pain.
  • foot pain, especially at the back of the heel (Achilles tendinitis) or sole of the foot (plantar fasciitis).
  • lower back pain (spondylitis – inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of the spine

Ankylosing Spondylitis

  • Pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips/buttocks. Less commonly, shoulders and along the back of the heel.


Risk Factors For Inflammatory Arthritis

Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

  • Women are more to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men.
  • Age 40-60 is the most common age range for rheumatoid arthritis to begin.
  • Genetics/family history of RA increases your risk of developing the disease.
  • Smoking not only increases the risk of RA, indications are that it is associated with greater severity of the disease symptoms.
  • Environmental exposure to asbestos or silica may increase the risk factor for RA 
  • Obesity/overweight people (especially women age 55 or younger) are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis

RA can also increase your risk of developing other syndromes and health conditions.

Risk Factors for Psoriatic Arthritis

  • Genetics/family history
  • Environmental – viral or bacterial infections

Risk Factors for Ankylosing Spondylitis

  • Men are affected more than women by ankylosing spondylitis.

Anita Hamilton

50+ World editor & writer Anita Hamilton's articles are inspired by real historical events, places, and people. Her travel experiences, a lifelong keen interest in history, art, vintage music, books, silent films, classic movies, "golden age" television shows, fashion, & entertainment in general - combined with years of research - make her a subject matter expert with acquired knowledge & expertise on these topics. This, and a loving and supportive family complete with 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.

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