What is Polyarthritis?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2018
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Polyarthritis is the name given to any form of arthritis that occurs in more than five different joints of the body. There are three main forms of arthritis — osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and septic arthritis — and the term can be applied to each of these. Due to the general nature of polyarthritis it is not more common in a particular gender and can happen at any age.

The causes of polyarthritis are many and varied although the most common is an auto-immune disorder. It is not unheard of, however, for the disease to be caused by an infection although this is much less common. An example of an infection which could cause polyarthritis is the Ross River Virus, which is carried my mosquitoes. Another example is the Sindbis virus although in this case the symptoms are usually relatively mild compared to other forms of the disease.

Symptoms of polyarthritis include swelling, pain and restricted joint movement. There are a number of other symptoms and a person may not suffer from them all. For example, some people complain that joint movement feels difficult and uncomfortable while others may experience warmth in the joint.


Treatment for polyarthritis depends on the exact symptoms, although generally reducing pain rather than curing the problem is the primary concern. Some people find that sleeping on a hard mattress can help polyarthritis symptoms. Physiotherapy and pain killing medicine is also commonly used in order to reduce the amount of pain. If the pain isn’t being controlled by these drugs, then stronger ones will be used in order to reduce the day-to-day pain that the patient suffer.

In some cases lifestyle changes may be required to treat the problem. For example, some people with the disease may be asked to lose weight as this helps to reduce the amount of pressure put on the joints. Taking supplements such as glucosamine is also commonly recommended as there is some evidence it can be effective with certain types of arthritis. Treatment will vary between patients, however, depending on the exact form of the problem and exhibited symptoms.

If there is arthritis in more than one but less than five joints then the condition is called oligoarthritis. There are two types of oligoarthritis — persistent and extended. Persistent means that the disease doesn’t affect more than four joints throughout its entire time span while extended means that the disease affects more than four different joints after six months.



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