Arthritis is a general term that is used with reference to joint disorders that are characterized by inflammation of one or more joints. Stiffness of joints, swelling, pain and reduced joint mobility are some of the common symptoms of arthritis. There are various types of arthritis, and symptoms of each of these subtypes vary depending on the location or spread of inflammation. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common types of arthritis. While osteoarthritis is associated with the age-related degeneration of protective cartilage in joints, rheumatoid arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when antibodies start targeting the joints.
While doctors can observe the impact of the disease through a physical examination, blood tests such as complete blood count, C-reactive protein and rheumatoid factor are often conducted in order to ascertain the type of arthritis the patients may be suffering from. Rheumatoid factor is an autoantibody that is commonly present in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, which is why, testing one for rheumatoid factor helps in the differential diagnosis of arthritis. While a majority of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis test positive for rheumatoid factor, some people may test negative. Such people are diagnosed with seronegative arthritis. In this article, we will find out about seronegative arthritis symptoms and treatment.
Causes and Types
Besides osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation of joints is also a characteristic feature of conditions such as gout, septic arthritis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and Still's disease. Rheumatoid factor test is one of the tests that is conducted when the patient seems to be exhibiting signs of arthritis. This test helps doctors to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis or assess the patient's chances of developing it at a later stage. However, testing negative for rheumatoid factor does not mean that one can never suffer from an arthritis condition. As mentioned earlier, a person is diagnosed with seronegative arthritis if the signs of inflammation of joints are present, even when one tests negative for the rheumatoid factor. It is believed that autoimmune responses or genetic predisposition may be the underlying cause of this arthritic condition. Conditions such as ankylosing arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions that are associated with this type of arthritis.
These conditions may occur as a result of production of autoantibodies. Autoantibodies are antibodies that target the body's cells or tissues instead of the pathogens or foreign invaders. Such autoimmune responses could be triggered by certain pathogenic infections. For instance, reactive arthritis, which is also referred to as Reiter's syndrome, is an autoimmune arthritic disease that is believed to be triggered by a bacterial infection. Ankylosing spondylitis is another seronegative arthritic condition, which is characterized by the inflammation of the bones and intervertebral discs in the spine. This condition may also cause inflammation of the sacroiliac joints. Those who are born with HLA-B27 protein are believed to be at an increased risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis as well as reactive arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is another condition that is characterized by the inflamed skin and joints. Genetic predisposition or environmental factors may play a role in the development of this ailment. Sometimes, inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis may also coexist with arthritis.
Symptoms and Treatment
The symptoms of seronegative arthritis would depend on the arthritic condition one may be suffering from. While joint pain and stiffness are characteristic signs of arthritis, each of these conditions may affect different joints. For instance, a person suffering from ankylosing spondylitis would suffer from lower back pain due to the inflammation of the spinal bones and sacroiliac joints. There is a risk of spinal bones fusing together, leading to a spinal deformity and reduced mobility. On the other hand, psoriatic arthritis, gives rise to sausage-like swelling on finger and/or toes. There are various types of psoriatic arthritis wherein joints located in different parts of the body may get inflamed. Inflammation of joints is also accompanied by inflammation on various parts of the skin such as the fingertips, nails, scalp, knees, elbows or the genital region. Reactive arthritis is another seronegative arthritic condition wherein swelling, pain and stiffness in the large joints may be accompanied by inflammatory eye problems and urogenital conditions.
Since all the forms of arthritis are characterized by inflamed joints, arthritis treatment is mainly aimed at reducing the inflammation. The treatment of seronegative arthritis also involves the use of anti-inflammatory drugs for reducing inflammation and improving joint mobility. Drug therapy certainly helps in alleviating the early symptoms of arthritis. Treating the underlying condition would also help in alleviating the symptoms to a great extent. Drug therapy may also involve the use of pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immune-modifying drugs, antibiotics, or drugs for treating specific pathogenic infections. Since inflammation of joints affects joint mobility, physical therapy may also be recommended by the doctors. Other alternative healing therapies such as massage, acupuncture or yoga may also prove beneficial in preserving the range of motion of the affected joint.
Arthritis is a debilitating disease, that can cause severe discomfort, and affect one's ability to perform simple activities. However, the symptoms of this inflammatory disease can be successfully managed, if it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages. Arthritis can strike at an early age, therefore, young adults or elderly people who have begun to experience joint pain or other symptoms of arthritis, must get a thorough medical checkup done at the earliest.