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Polyarthritis, Inflammatory Arthritis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Are They the Same?


Updated June 27, 2014

Question: Polyarthritis, Inflammatory Arthritis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis - The Same?

There are so many types of arthritis -- terminology can get confusing. Polyarthritis, inflammatory arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis are examples. Often they are used interchangeably but are they the same condition?



Polyarthritis is a non-specific term for arthritis from any cause, that involves 2 or more joints.

Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis typically affects several joints throughout the body simultaneously. It is caused by an overactive immune system whereby the body attacks its own tissues (autoimmune disease), resulting in joint inflammation. Arthritis caused by inflammation is often associated with pain and stiffness after periods of rest or inactivity, especially morning stiffness. There can be swelling, redness, and warmth around the affected joints. Inflammatory arthritis also may have systemic effects, affecting other organs of the body. Rheumatoid athritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis are types of inflammatory arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is classified as a type of inflammatory arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that involves many joints symmetrically. Rheumatoid arthritis is also associated with systemic effects.


Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. Arthritis Foundation. Thirteenth Edition.

Inflammatory Arthritis Center. Hospital for Special Surgery. Accessed April 18, 2013.

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