Palindromic rheumatism (PR) consists of sudden and rapidly developing attacks of arthritis. There is acute pain, redness, swelling, and disability of one or multiple joints. The interval between recurrent palindromic attacks and the length of an attack is extremely variable from few hours to days. Attacks may become more frequent with time but there is no joint damage after attacks. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease, possibly an abortive form of rheumatoid arthritis.
Palindromic rheumatism is a rare type of inflammatory arthritis which causes sudden inflammation in one or several joints, lasts a few hours or up to a few days, and then goes away completely. The problem usually involves 2 or 3 joints, which have onset over hours and last days to weeks, before subsiding. However episodes of recurrence form a pattern, with symptom-free periods between attacks lasting for weeks to months. The large joints are most commonly involved. Constitutionally, there may or may not be a fever, and swelling of the joints. The soft tissues are involved with swelling of the periarticular tissues, especially heel pads and finger pads. Nodules may be found in the subcutaneous tissues. Attacks may become more frequent with time but there is no joint damage after attacks.
It typically affects people between the ages of 20 and 50. One study showed an average age of onset of 49.
Palindromic rheumatism is a disease of unknown cause. It has been suggested that it is an abortive form of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), since anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (anti-CCP) and antikeratin antibodies (AKA) are present in a high proportion of patients, as is the case in rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike RA and some other forms of arthritis, palindromic rheumatism affects men and women equally. Palindromic rheumatism is frequently the presentation for Whipple disease which is caused by the infectious agent Tropheryma whipplei (formerly T. whippelii).
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Due to the symptoms of palindromic arthritis and the nature of the attacks, diagnosis can be difficult or take a long time. The symptoms can be similar to many other forms of arthritis or other autoimmune diseases. It is often a case of eliminating the other conditions before getting the correct diagnosis due to there being no specific test for PR diagnosis.
No single test can confirm a diagnosis. A doctor may make a diagnosis based on medical history and signs and symptoms. Palindromic rheumatism must be distinguished from acute gouty arthritis and an atypical, acute onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Without specific tests (such as analysis of joint fluid), it may be difficult to distinguish palindromic rheumatism from other episodic joint problems. It is important to note that a person may experience more than one autoimmune disorder at the same time. Laboratory findings are usually normal. Blood tests may show an elevation of the ESR and CRP, but are otherwise unremarkable. Rheumatoid factor may be present especially in the group that is likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
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Palindromic rheumatism derives its name from the Greek palindromos meaning to take the same road once again (palin, again + dromos, pathway) emphasizing how the illness begins and ends in a similar way. The term "palindrome" means a word that is spelled the same forward as backward (examples include "kayak" and "mom").
- Powell A, Davis P, Jones N, Russell AS (June 2008). "Palindromic rheumatism is a common disease: comparison of new-onset palindromic rheumatism compared to new-onset rheumatoid arthritis in a 2-year cohort of patients". J. Rheumatol. 35 (6): 992–4. PMID 18412310.
- Salvador G, Gomez A, Vinas O, et al. (August 2003). "Prevalence and clinical significance of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide and antikeratin antibodies in palindromic rheumatism. An abortive form of rheumatoid arthritis?". Rheumatology (Oxford). 42 (8): 972–5. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/keg268. PMID 12730510.