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Cricoarytenoid Joint - What You Should Know

Is the Cricoarytenoid Joint Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis Activity?

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Updated May 26, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The knee, hip, wrist, elbow, and even shoulder joints are commonly affected by arthritis -- but what about the cricoarytenoid joint? For more details on the cricoarytenoid joint, read this excerpt from UpToDate -- a trusted electronic reference used by many physicians and patients looking for in-depth and well-explained medical information. Then read on so you will have full understanding of the cricoarytenoid joint.

Cricoarytenoid Joint: Details from UpToDate

"RA eventually affects the peripheral joints in almost all patients. Involvement of axial and central joints, such as the interfacetal and atlantoaxial joints of the neck, acromioclavicular, sternoclavicular, temporomandibular, cricoarytenoid joints, and shoulders and hips is less common, occurring in 20 to 50 percent of patients. In about 30 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis, there is inflammation of a joint near the windpipe called the cricoarytenoid joint. Inflammation of this joint can cause hoarseness and difficulty breathing."

Where Is the Cricoarytenoid Joint?

The cricoarytenoid joints are between the cricoid and paired arytenoid cartilages in the back wall of the larynx. The cricoarytenoid joints help open, close, and tighten the vocal cords during speech and breathing.

How Prevalent Is Arthritis of the Cricoarytenoid Joint?

About one in three rheumatoid arthritis patients suffers from cricoarytenoid arthritis. Why some people get it and others don't is not known.

What Symptoms Are Associated With Arthritis of the Cricoarytenoid Joint?

Symptoms include the following:

  • Hoarseness
  • Pain when swallowing (odynophagia)
  • Sensation of having something stuck in your throat
  • Pain when talking or coughing
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)

Don't pass these symptoms off as being something minor. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

Who Gets Arthritis of the Cricoarytenoid Joint?

Cricoarytenoid arthritis is most common in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but it can also occur in other conditions, including scleroderma, gout, lupus, upper respiratory infections, vocal cord tumors, and Tietze's syndrome.

How Is Arthritis of the Cricoarytenoid Joint Treated?

Mild symptoms are typically treated with high-dose systemic corticosteroids. If that doesn't work, an injection of corticosteroids into the cricoarytenoid joint may be required. Finally, surgery such as tracheostomy, arytenoidectomy (removal of cartilage at the back of the larynx to which the vocal cords are attached), or arytenoidopexy (surgical fixation of the cartilage at the back of the larynx) may be required to control pain and improve breathing if none of the medications work.

Want to Learn More?

See UpToDate's topic, "Patient information: Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and diagnosis" for additional in-depth medical information on rheumatoid arthritis.

Sources:

RN Maini, PJW Venables. "Patient information: Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and diagnosis." UpToDate. Accessed 9/30/09.

Kamanli et al. Bilateral cricoarytenoid joint involvement in rheumatoid arthritis: a case report. Rheumatology. Accessed 10/4/2009.

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