Seronegative Arthritis

A Primer on Seronegative Arthritis; Its Forms In RA Negative Individuals

Seronegative arthritis includes specific types of arthritis in which the autoantibodies that are found in rheumatoid arthritis are not present.
Blood work is done to confirm whether the rheumatoid factor is present in a given individual.

If you are RA negative, experiencing chronic joint pain and inflammation, it may be one of the following types of seronegative arthritis.

  1. Ankylosing spondylitis – chronic pain and inflammation situated in joints in the back where the sacrum (bone above the tailbone) meets the bones on the sides of the upper buttocks.  The pain is primarily in the spine.  If left untreated this can cause the vertebrae to become joined together, fused.  This is called ankylosing. This kind of seronegative arthritis can spread be systemic, inflaming other organs including the lungs, heart, kidneys and eyes.  The symptoms of this disease are similar to the types of arthritis described below, and to colitis and Crohns syndrome.

  2. Psoriatic arthritis – arthritis in people who have the common skin condition called psoriasis.  The skin condition will usually develop first, and later in life, they begin to develop joint pain and arthritis.  The cause of psoriases and this form of arthritis are not known but are thought to be an autoimmune problem, in which the body attacks its own cells as a reaction to a perceived infection.  It could be related to an actual infection, or something in the environment. In many cases, psoriasis, leading to psoriatic arthritis, is hereditary.

  3. Reactive arthritis – The diagnosis and nature of this disease is evolving, and not scientifically verified, but one explanation —fairly recently— is that within less than 2 months after a gastrointestinal infection, the arthritis occurs. In other cases, it seems to follow an episode or existing chlamydia infection in the respiratory.  About ten percent of patients develop reactive arthritis with no preceding infection.  The symptoms of reactive arthritis may be  inflamed gastrointestinal tract, inflamed joints, skin, mucous membranes, eyes, the attaching point between sharpey's fibers I(muscles, ligaments, tendons) and bones, involving collagen, and the spinal column, sternum and skull.

Seronegative arthritis can be misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as an early phase or less severe form of RA. In some cases seronegative can become RA positive, but it is still a distinct disease, not just early phase RA.   It is also called RA negative arthritis. The medical community is seeking advanced techniques for diagnosing it, specifically MRI and ultrasonography.

It can cause stiffness and pain in the joints of the shoulders, elbows, ankles and feet, hips, lower back, and knees, wrists and hands as well as symptoms noted above.

Joints can be swollen and red, and there may be accompanying skin or mouth lesions, overall tiredness, and sore eyes.

Patients with this affliction can have difficulty with routine mobility, walking, bending, stretching and so on. 

Treatments include analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs, injections, chemotherapy and physical therapy. Surgery may be indicated for some individuals. These do not work for some people --  they continue to suffer.  Seronegative arthritis requires significant research.   Perhaps, as we have cured cancer for millions of people through medical advances, the future will hold a cure for arthritis as well.