What is early inflammatory arthritis?

New onset early inflammatory arthritis is characterised by unexplained joint swelling, pain and stiffness. Symptoms are typically worse first thing in the morning and relieved with activity.

Your symptoms are likely to be significant to you and cause you a lot of problems, but the clinical signs may be subtle or the results of your tests may be normal.

You should suspect early inflammatory arthritis where your joint pain is:

  • New in the last 6-12 weeks
  • Associated with joint swelling and early morning stiffness of greater than 30 minutes.

Your GP should arrange for blood tests looking for inflammation and X-rays of the hands and feet to help them to determine urgent referral to rheumatology.

The point of prompt diagnosis for early inflammatory arthritis is early treatment. There is strong evidence this makes a significant long-term difference to patients’ outcomes and reduces the likelihood of permanent joint damage.