Inflammatory Arthritis

What are the causes of the serious condition known as inflammatory arthritis? What can be done to treat them?

Rob Lamberts, MD
6-minute read
Episode #56

Welcome to my third article about arthritis. My first two covered osteoarthritis--what causes it and what to do about it; this article will focus on the more serious kind of arthritis know as inflammatory arthritis.

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What Is Inflammatory Arthritis?

So what makes inflammatory arthritis more serious than osteoarthritis? The key is the word inflammatory, which comes from Latin root words meaning “into flames.” Inflammation in the body involves swelling, as well as many of the features of flames: heat, redness, and pain. So the more the inflammation, the more the joints get swollen, and are painful.

There three main types of inflammatory arthritis:

  1.  Infectious arthritis

  2. Arthritis caused by crystals

  3. Autoimmune arthritis.

What Is Infectious Arthritis?

A joint infected by bacteria is a serious problem. If not treated quickly, infectious arthritis can cause permanent damage to the joint or spread to other parts of the body.

The most common symptom of this type of arthritis is a single joint that becomes swollen, red, and painful fairly rapidly. Children are especially prone to getting an infected joint, particularly in the legs. The infection most commonly comes from the bloodstream with no clear provocation. Since it’s a serious problem, any child with a limp not associated with a known injury and that lasts more than 30 minutes should be evaluated by a doctor. This symptom is more difficult to identify in infants under a year of age because they often aren’t walking yet, and the symptoms are subtle; fever and irritability are the main symptoms, accompanied by increased crying with the movement of the affected limb. Problems like this are part of what makes pediatrics a challenge, but fortunately it’s fairly uncommon.

Adults can get infectious arthritis as well. Younger, healthier people usually get it as a result of a cut or animal bite that penetrates the joint, although sexually active young adults can get it from gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted bacteria infection, that can spread to multiple joints. Elderly people with weakened immune systems will get infected joints from the bloodstream, and artificial joints are also prone to infection.


Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.