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Palindromic rheumatism is a very rare form of arthritis which is characterized by sudden arthritic attacks. Patients develop arthritis symptoms abruptly and rapidly, and the symptoms persist for hours or days before vanishing just as quickly. Typically, no lasting joint damage or pain is caused by palindromic rheumatism, which explains the name; a palindrome is a word that reads the same backward and forwards, and palindromic rheumatism starts and ends in the same way.
The cause of palindromic rheumatism is not known, although it appears to be be autoimmune in origin. Attacks usually involve one to three joints, with the knees, fingers, and large joints being especially susceptible to palindromic rheumatism. Redness, swelling, and pain appear around the affected joint, and the patient may have trouble moving the joint comfortably. This sudden onset of arthritis contrasts with the more typical slow degeneration seen in other arthritis cases.
Because a number of conditions can cause symptoms similar to palindromic rheumatism, a doctor may take some time to diagnose the condition. The patient will be interviewed closely about the symptoms, and if possible, the doctor will examine the joints during an active outbreak. Samples of fluid from the joint may be taken, along with blood, to check for levels of various substances in the body which can provide clues. A meticulous diagnosis is important to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms, to ensure that the patient receives the treatment which is appropriate.
Once palindromic rheumatism is diagnosed, there are a number of treatment options, although there is no cure for the condition. Depending on the patient, attacks may become more frequent or severe over time, with some treatments reducing the severity of palindromic rheumatism. Some doctors may prescribe anti-rheumatic drugs with the goal of preventing the progression of palindromic rheumatism into full-blown rheumatoid arthritis. Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids may also be used to bring down the pain and swelling in individual attacks.
Each doctor has an individual approach to palindromic rheumatism, based on his or her experiences with treating the disease. Because there are a number of theories circulating about the cause of palindromic rheumatism and other rheumatoid conditions, a doctor may also make recommendations about diet or exercise. Some patients find that they need to try several doctors before they find a care provider who is suited to their needs.