The elbow is a complex mechanism of three simple joints (the humeroulnar, the humeroradial, and the proximal radioulnar joint), which provides the movement of three bones of the arm: humerus, radius, and ulna. That is why, when at least one elbow joint is affected with arthritis (inflammation), it becomes difficult or impossible to move the hand.
Like other types of arthritis, elbow arthritis sneaks up gradually: at first, it is manifested as minor discomfort in the morning, later arthritis often comes with colds. The pain goes away quickly, and that’s why only a few people turn to a doctor at the first stages of the disease. Just when arthritis becomes aggravated or goes into a chronic form, a patient seeks medical help and undergoes a lengthy treatment. Most often, the patients are seniors over 65: one in six at this age suffers from complications of ulnar arthritis.
Symptoms of Arthritis of the Elbow Joint
Good news is that elbow pain means arthritis only in 10% of cases. But you should not take risks and visit a doctor. Preventing the disease is better than letting it develop because inflammation can spread from the elbow to other joints.a
Arthritis of the joints can be diagnosed by pain depending on the cause of inflammation (dull and aching – with gouty arthritis, acute and stiffening – with rheumatoid arthritis). Also, local symptoms include swelling and redness of the skin, an increase in temperature in the elbow area, impairment of mobility. All these signs indicate the damage to the articular cartilage and presence of excess fluid around it.
The typical symptoms of arthritis of the elbow joint are not visible. They may include fatigue, fever, and fever, headache, nausea. Osteoarthritis of the elbow joint in acute and chronic form can have serious complications. Without treatment, the tissues around the inflamed joints can contract, and the hand gets immobilized in one position (joint stiffness). The defect can be corrected by gypsum, and in especially tricky cases – by surgical intervention. Also, the consequence of untreated arthritis is phlegmon – purulent inflammation of deep or upper tissues of the hand, bursitis – inflammation of the periarticular bag, ankylosis – joint fusion and complete loss of mobility of the hand.
Diagnosis of Arthritis of the Elbow Joint
An accurate diagnosis of ulnar arthritis can be done by a rheumatologist or orthopedist. For a complete clinical picture, you will need a direct and lateral X-ray of the elbow. A general blood test is also important for detecting all inflammatory diseases. If the localization of the inflammatory process could not be determined, doctors order ultrasound exam or MRI, etc.
But sometimes it is not enough to find out the true cause of arthritis of the elbow joint. In such cases, doctors may test the synovial fluid of the elbow joint: it is extracted with a special medical needle (a puncture). A lab analysis of the periarticular fluid allows the doctor to determine arthritis and its type (inflammatory or non-inflammatory) as the inflammation can also be caused by bacteria.
It is interesting that only women have a hereditary form of elbow joint arthritis. In such cases, the HLA-B27 gene may become an indicator of arthritis. It explains why ulnar arthritis is more common in women.
A common etiologic factor for men and women is rheumatic diseases systemic or local connective tissue damage (rheumatism and complications of other diseases, systemic vasculitis, diffuse tissue diseases).
Causes of Arthritis of the Elbow Joint: Diseases of Joints
Microcrystalline arthritis belongs to a group of articular diseases caused by the deposition of urates and calcium pyrophosphates (the cause of pyrophosphate arthropathy).
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. In 10% of the diseases occurs with such chronic skin and nail disease as psoriasis but not always. Sometimes psoriatic arthropathy appears after ten years; sometimes it preseeds the symptoms of psoriasis.
Reactive arthritis is an inflammation of joints after a previous infection, including STDs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis) or intestinal disorders (yersiniosis).
Osteoarthritis is a disease affecting the cartilaginous tissues of the articular surface.
Bechterew’s disease is a chronic progressive inflammation of the intervertebral joints, which leads to their fusion.
Causes of Arthritis of the Elbow Joint: Vasculitis
Hemorrhagic vasculitis is a disease with a predominant lesion of capillaries of the skin, joints, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys. Deterioration of the bones is observed in most patients with vasculitis. However, it most often affects large joints.
Buerger’s disease is a pathological process of blood flow disorder, which is first characterized by inflammation of small vessels of the extremities that later develop into large arteries.
Nodal periarteritis is a disease which causes damage to the arteries of internal organs.
Causes of Arthritis of the Elbow Joint: Diffuse Diseases
Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system starts to kill healthy cells, and it damages the skin, internal organs, and joints.
Dermatomyositis is a systemic disease of connective tissue and muscles accompanied by impaired motor function. The joint syndrome manifests through pain and reduced mobility.
Systemic scleroderma results in hardening of connective tissue with subsequent damage to internal organs. The deterioration of the joints is manifested by pain and stiffness.
Sharpe Syndrome is an autoimmune connective tissue disease with symptoms of lupus erythematosus, systemic scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Other causes of arthritis of the elbow joint
- bacteria, viruses, and fungi;
- dysbacteriosis, food poisoning, metabolic disorders;
- sinusitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis and other diseases of the respiratory system;
- allergic reactions;
- acute viral hepatitis;
- urethritis, enterocolitis, cystitis;
- measles, sepsis, tuberculosis, diabetes mellitus,
- excessive physical activity and trauma;
- malignant tumors;
- high humidity, poor ventilation.
Treatment varies depending on the elbow inflammation and symptoms you experience.
Your treatment options include:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- physical therapy
- steroid injections
- elbow padding