Oligoarthritis is a form of joint inflammation in which two to four joints are involved. In some cases, the inflammation may remain at this level, while in others, it may progress, involving more joints and turning into polyarthritis. People can experience the onset at any age, and there are a variety of treatment options available for patients with this condition, depending on the cause of the inflammation, the age of the patient, and other factors.
This word is derived from the roots for “few,” “joint,” and “inflammation.” It literally means “inflammation of a few joints,” to contrast it from inflammation in a single joint or inflammation in more than five joints. Commonly, oligoarthritis involves the large joints of the body, although any joint can be involved. Common targets are the thumb, the knee, and the hip.
The inflammation in the joints can cause stiffness, pain, cracking noises, and other issues. People may also experience heat and swelling around the joint, and can note that symptoms appear worse at different times or after heavy activity. A doctor can conduct an evaluation to learn more about where the pain is located and to explore possible causes for the inflammation. This evaluation can include the use of medical imaging studies to see inside the joint without conducting invasive procedures.
Pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is sometimes called oligoarthritis because it only involves a few joints. In this case the onset occurs in youth, despite the fact that many people associate arthritis with aging, and it involves a few joints at first, progressing to other joints in the body. With any form of oligoarthritis, it is generally not classified as oligoarthritis until the symptoms have persisted for six months or more, indicating that chronic inflammation is present in the joints. A patient may need to consult a rheumatologist for specialized diagnosis and treatment.
Joint inflammation such as that seen in this condition can be treated in a number of ways. Antiinflammatory drugs may be prescribed to reduce heat and swelling, and patients can also apply cool compresses to bring down the swelling in their joints. If the joints are painful, medications can be administered to manage pain and keep the patient more comfortable. Gentle exercise such as swimming and yoga can sometimes help to ease inflammation, and physical therapy is another option. Physical therapy can also help patients develop strength so that if their joints degenerate, they will be prepared.