Autoimmune arthritis is the name given to arthritis conditions where a person’s immune system attacks itself. This causes inflammation including in the joints creating pain, fatigue, joint swelling, and stiffness.
The most common examples of autoimmune arthritis are Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriatic Arthritis.
Other autoimmune arthritis conditions include
- Reactive Arthritis
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Lupus (SLE)
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Symptoms of these forms of arthritis will vary but general symptoms often include
- Joint Pain
Risk factors can include genetics and family history of a specific condition. Environmental factors may also have a role including smoking, obesity, infection and stress.
Women are two to three times more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis than men.
Men get Ankylosing Spondylitis more often than women.
There is no cure for autoimmune conditions.
Identifying and treating autoimmune arthritis as quickly as possible helps to minimise complications. Initially, your doctor will ask you about your signs and symptoms. Other diagnostic tests will include blood tests and could include imaging X rays or scans. If your doctor suspects you have autoimmune arthritis you should be referred to a specialist Rheumatologist.
Medical and lifestyle management in combination will be recommended to reduce symptoms and complications.
Questions to ask your Rheumatologist
It is important to be an active participant in your care and to understand the pros and cons of treatment options. Work with your health team to decide on the best options for you.
Common questions to ask your GP and Rheumatologist include
- How can I keep track of the blood test results used to monitor my condition?
- How will I know if the medication is working, and how long does this take?
- What are the possible side effects and how often will they occur?
- What could I do to minimise the chance of side effects?
- Who do I contact if I have concerns about the medication?
- Are there medications that I should stop now that I am beginning this new treatment?
- Who should I contact if I have a ‘flare’?
Remission and Flare-ups
Being in remission means you are not experiencing symptoms or only minimal symptoms from an autoimmune condition, but it does not mean you are cured!
Autoimmune conditions are complicated. Everybody is different. Periods of remission may occur because of medication and lifestyle management. Always keep in touch with your health team including making decisions around any changes to medications.
Flares in autoimmune arthritis conditions can include higher levels of pain, fatigue, joint swelling, and stiffness. It is not always clear what triggers a flare-up. For some, it can be a noticeable pattern relating to higher levels of stress and or physical activity.