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Systemic Arthritis

Systemic arthritis causes pain and stiffness in your spine and large joints such as your hips, knees and shoulders.

Common Signs & Symptoms

If you suspect you may have systemic arthritis, please see your doctor and ask for blood tests to check your ESR and creatine kinase levels to check that all is normal.

Also known as Inflammatory Arthritis

  • Stiffness in the morning in two or more joints, usually lasting longer than 45 minutes
  • Problems often begin in the small joints of your hands and feet
  • Fatigue and poor appetite
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Blood test confirmation

Description

There are two main types of arthritis problems a) systemic arthritis, which is an inflammatory medical condition affecting your entire system (eg rheumatoid arthritis) and is often accompanid by other symptoms such as feeling unwell b) localised wear and tear conditions such as Osteoarthritis (Spondylosis) - this is usually located in weight-bearing joints such as your knees, hips or back which are under physical stress and strain. Systemic arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning your immune system starts to fight your body's own tissues causing them to become inflamed. The first signs of systemic arthritis are usually seen and felt in the joints of your hands or feet but can affect all joints, including the spine.

Systemic arthritis causes pain and stiffness in your spine and large joints such as your hips, knees and shoulders. Smooth cartilage and joint fluid which normally protect the bone in your joint become frayed, worn out and lose their cushioning properties. The bone can change shape in response and grow bony spurs. Osteoarthritis can cause pain and limit activity in older people. Treatment is aimed at reducing pain and disability and improving quality of life.

Advice and Treatment

See you doctor and ask for some blood tests to check your ESR and creatine kinase levels, to see that all is normal. If there is any suggestion that you might have a systemic arthritis your doctor should refer you to a Rheumatology consultant who will discuss your treatment options. There are around 30 types of systemic inflammatory conditions and it's vital that you get treatment as early as possible. When you begin to develop symptoms you have a 'window of opportunity' which lasts for 12 weeks- if you get treatment during this time you are less likely to suffer long term problems from pain and stiffness. 

Other services

Exercises given to you by your physiotherapist will help you to reduce stiffness and pain.
Podiatrists and orthotists can assist with biomechanical assesment and modification, occupational therapists can offer you aids to help with daily tasks you find difficult. Your GP or pharmacist are key to monitoring your medication. 

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