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What is Allergic Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Definition and Overview

Arthritis is a medical condition characterized by the inflammation of the joints, which can result to serious complications for the bones and tissues surrounding these joints. The condition can be triggered or aggravated by a wide range of factors including ingesting certain food and medications.

In the case of allergic arthritis, the patient’s immune system reacts to the allergens in very specific ways, including raising the body’s temperature to fight infection. However, these immunological responses can lead to various complications including rheumatoid arthritis.

Allergic arthritis involves the inflammation of the joints in hands, wrists, and feet, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Millions of people all over the world suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, a number that also include patients who suffer from the condition because of their bodies’ autoimmune response to certain types of food and medication. Allergic arthritis can affect patients of all ages and of both genders.

Allergic arthritis can cause serious complications including causing carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation in the eyes, lungs, blood vessels, and heart, as well as an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. Carpal tunnel syndrome involves nerve compression in the hands, which affects the nerves responsible for controlling movement and sensation in the hands. If left unchecked and untreated, allergic arthritis can also cause damage to the joints, bones, tendons, and cartilage. In more serious cases, deformities in the joints are not uncommon.

Cause of Condition

Allergic arthritis is caused by ingesting certain types of food and medication, which provokes an autoimmune response from the body, leading to the inflammation of the joints. Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience joint pain after eating, but some research show that plainly eating certain kinds of food is not the root cause of the condition, but rather the specific types of proteins and other substances found in food items such as:

  • Cow’s milk, including food items that use this as an ingredient
  • Hen’s eggs, including food items that use this as an ingredient
  • Pork, including food items or dishes that use this as an ingredient
  • Cereal and certain types of grains
  • Codfish


The human digestive tract is the first to identify food- or medication-related allergens. As with other cases of allergies, the patient’s immune system mistakenly identifies proteins and other substances in the foods listed above as harmful invaders. The immune system proceeds to produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, which will then begin a chain reaction that will involve inflammation in the joints.

Some research also shows that gluten can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in some individuals.

Aside from the foods listed above, the following can also increase the risk of allergic and rheumatoid arthritis in patients:

  • Genetic factors, as this would mean that arthritis runs in the family
  • Gender – Research confirms that more women suffer from arthritis than men as the condition is linked to estrogen, the female hormone.
  • Cigarette smoking – Smokers are more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions that involve inflammation.

Key Symptoms

In the early stages or mild forms of allergy-related rheumatoid arthritis, the patient’s smaller joints are the ones affected first. The patient often experiences pain in the joints in the fingers and toes. In more severe cases, the inflammation and other symptoms spread to the larger joints such as the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.

Other symptoms include:

  • Tenderness and warmth to the joints, which may or may not be visibly swollen
  • Stiffness in the joints, which can begin in the morning and last for hours
  • Rheumatoid nodules, or tissue bumps under the skin of the arms, which feel firm to the touch
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Fever


Unlike other types of rheumatoid arthritis, allergic arthritis symptoms are usually observable after the patient has ingested food or medication that cause or aggravate the condition. The patient might also experience flares, or periods of increased arthritic activity, as the body reacts to allergens.

Over time, allergy-related rheumatoid arthritis can cause deformities in the joints. The condition can also cause the joints to shift out of their usual place.

Who to See and Types of Treatment Available

When the patient observes the symptoms described above, especially after eating certain kinds of food, the doctor will recommend a blood test to measure the erythrocyte sedimentation rate or ESR. High ESR rates mean that the patient has an increased rate of inflammatory processes in the body. Regular x-rays is also performed to monitor the progress of the condition.

Primary care for allergic arthritis often comes from a general practitioner (GP), who can then refer the patient to a specialist such as rheumatologist or orthopedist.

Treatment usually focuses on preventing the condition from progressing. Patients are typically prescribed medication to suppress the autoimmune responses to allergens, or to ease the pain brought by arthritis. Medication can also be prescribed to prevent further damage to the bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.

References:

  • National Health Services
  • National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
  • American College of Rheumatology: “Rheumatoid Arthritis”