There are many types of inflammatory arthritis, including gout, ankylosing spondylitis (AS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Inflammatory arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system releases inflammatory chemicals and attacks the joint tissues.

The inflammation then results in swelling, pain, increased fluid in the joint, muscle loss, and damage to the bones and cartilage.

This article looks at the types of inflammatory arthritis, as well as the symptoms, causes, treatment options, and more.

The back of a person's head who has a type of inflammatory arthritis.Share on Pinterest
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There are many types of inflammatory arthritis, which share some traits but have distinct characteristics.

The most common types of inflammatory arthritis include:

  • RA: RA is a type of autoimmune condition. It attacks the synovial lining of the joint and leads to severe pain and loss of function. It typically affects the hands, wrists, and knees.
  • PsA: PsA is an immune-modulated condition that flares when the body’s immune system attacks itself. It affects the joints, where the ligaments and tendons connect to the bone. PsA affects 30% of those with psoriasis, a skin condition that results in scaly patches of skin. However, some develop PsA without developing psoriasis.
  • SLE: This is the most common type of lupus. The immune system attacks the tissues, which causes inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs. It can also affect the brain, skin, joints, lungs, blood vessels, and kidneys.
  • AS: AS typically affects the back, resulting in inflammation of the spine. The inflammation causes the body to produce additional calcium around the bones of the spine. This can cause additional bits of bone to grow, resulting in back and neck stiffness.
  • Gout: Gout is the accumulation of urate crystals in one or more joints. It typically occurs in one joint at a time, usually the big toe.

Other types of inflammatory arthritis include

  • Pseudogout: Otherwise known as calcium pyrophosphate crystal deposition disease (CPPD), pseudogout shares similar symptoms with gout. CPPD crystals build up in the cartilage, which triggers inflammation and pain. It most commonly affects the knee, wrist, or ankle. It can also affect the ligaments in the spine.
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA): JIA is a type of arthritis that affects children and teenagers. It causes pain in the hands, ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists. There are six types of JIA, which include PsA.
  • Lyme arthritis: Lyme arthritis is rare, occurring in 1 in 4 people with Lyme disease when bacteria that cause the disease enter a joint. It most often affects the knees, although it can also affect the shoulder, elbow, knee, jaw, wrist, and hip.
  • Infectious arthritis: This is also called septic arthritis. It occurs when bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus aureus, spread to the joint or the fluid surrounding it. This can happen as the infection travels through the bloodstream or, less commonly, through a wound near the joint. It typically affects a single joint, usually the knee, hips, ankles, and wrists.
  • Reactive arthritis (ReA): This is a type of arthritis that typically develops after an infection. A 2022 article notes that symptoms usually resolve within 3–5 months. However, 15–30% of those with ReA may develop long-term arthritis.

There are also types of inflammatory arthritis that have associations with autoimmune conditions. These include:

  • Sjogren’s disease: This is a rheumatic disease that affects the entire body. Approximately half of those with Sjogren’s disease also have another autoimmune condition, such as RA.
  • Mixed connective tissue disease: This is an inflammatory condition. Doctors use this term to describe when a person has one or more features of inflammatory rheumatic diseases, such as RA and lupus. Most people with mixed connective tissue disease develop joint inflammation or arthritis.
  • Scleroderma: Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, causes the skin and connective tissues to harden. It can also affect the joints. It can cause the tissues around the joints to stiffen and cause swelling around the joints.
  • Sarcoidosis: This condition causes patches of swollen tissue to develop in the body. It can also cause joint inflammation. This is called sarcoid arthropathy, which affects 5–15% of those with sarcoidosis.
  • Vasculitis: This refers to the inflammation of the blood vessels. Symptoms can depend on which blood vessels are affected. When they are near the joints, vasculitis can cause joint pain or swelling.

Learn more about inflammatory arthritis here.

Those with inflammatory arthritis will likely experience one or more of the following symptoms, depending on the type of inflammatory arthritis:

Some symptoms are specific to the type of inflammatory arthritis, for example:

Learn about early signs of RA here.

The causes of inflammatory arthritis are not yet well understood. However, according to the Arthritis Foundation, inflammatory arthritis develops when the immune system does not work as it should.

The immune system release inflammatory chemicals into the body that attack the tissues of the joint and the nerves.

This can develop due to a pathogen, such as bacteria or a virus, or it may result from genetics.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases notes that some types of arthritis, such as RA and JIA, have an association with certain genes. An environmental factor, such as a virus or bacteria, can then trigger these genes, resulting in inflammatory arthritis.

Some factors can increase an individual’s chance of developing some types of inflammatory arthritis, including:

  • age
  • sex
  • smoking
  • having obesity
  • diet

Gout occurs as a result of too much uric acid in the body, causing a condition known as hyperuricemia. Uric acid comes from purines, which the body creates as a byproduct of food.

When uric acid builds up in the joints, it can cause gout.

Learn about common types of arthritis here.

Treatment will depend on the type of inflammatory arthritis. For example, infectious arthritis and Lyme arthritis require antibiotics to clear the infection.

Those with autoimmune inflammatory arthritis, such as RA, JIA, PsA, AS, and SLE, will require disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), including:

If DMARDs are ineffective, the doctor may suggest treatment with biologic antirheumatic medications.

Learn more about the differences between traditional DMARDs and biologics.

Gout and pseudogout will require anti-inflammatory agents, including:

People who experience recurrent gout attacks, kidney disease, or tophi (deposits of urate crystals) may require urate-lowering therapy.

Learn about how to lower uric acid levels naturally here.

To diagnose inflammatory arthritis, a doctor will take note of a person’s symptoms and perform a physical examination.

They will order blood tests to look for specific markers in the blood that may indicate the presence of inflammatory arthritis. Blood tests include:

They may also order a uric acid test. A doctor can measure uric acid levels through a blood or urine test.

Learn more about blood tests for RA here.

According to a 2022 article, it is possible to reduce inflammation. It is not possible to reverse any damage to the joints.

Most types of inflammatory arthritis, such as gout and autoimmune inflammatory arthritis, are chronic and have no cure. However, early treatment can help to control symptoms, prevent the disease from progressing, and prevent complications.

Early treatment can help to cure Infectious arthritis and Lyme arthritis. However, those who do not receive treatment quickly may risk permanent joint damage.

Learn more about inflammation here.

Both inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA) can cause joint pain. However, they are different types of arthritis.

Inflammatory arthritis typically occurs when the immune system attacks healthy joint tissue.

OA occurs when the cartilage that covers the end of a bone begins to break down. It is the result of everyday wear and tear on a joint.

Although both lead to inflammation, OA typically affects a singular joint, whereas inflammatory arthritis tends to be more widespread.

Learn more about osteoarthritis.

Inflammatory arthritis occurs when the immune system does not work as it should. The immune system releases inflammatory chemicals that attack the joint tissues, causing inflammation, pain, and swelling in joints.

There are many types of inflammatory arthritis, including:

  • rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
  • systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
  • gout
  • pseudogout
  • juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)
  • Lyme arthritis
  • infectious arthritis
  • reactive arthritis
  • Sjogren’s disease
  • mixed connective tissue disease
  • scleroderma
  • sarcoidosis
  • vasculitis

All types of inflammatory arthritis cause long-term damage to joints and require treatment. Early treatment can help to prevent damage to the joints, prevent complications, and halt the progression of the condition.

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for arthritis, visit our dedicated hub.

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