Palindromic rheumatism

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Palindromic rheumatism
Classification and external resources
Specialty rheumatology
ICD-10 M12.3
ICD-9-CM 719.3
DiseasesDB 9508

Palindromic rheumatism (PR) consists of sudden and rapidly developing attacks of arthritis. There is acute pain, redness, swelling, and disability of one (usually) or multiple joints. The interval between recurrent attacks is extremely variable and how long the attack lasts is also variable. Attacks may last from few hours to days. Attacks may become more frequent with time. There is no joint damage after attacks.


Due to the symptoms of palindromic arthritis and the nature of the attacks, diagnosis can be difficult or take 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.

Anti-citrullinated protein antibody is frequently associated.[1]


Palindromic rheumatism derives its name from the term "palindrome" — a word that is spelled the same forward as backward (examples include "kayak" and "mom") — emphasizing how the illness begins and ends in a similar way.

From the Greek palindromos meaning to take the same road once again (palin, again + dromos, pathway).


It is a rare type of inflammatory arthritis that 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 - 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. The soft tissues are also involved with the swelling of the periarticular tissues, especially heel pads and the finger pads. Nodules may be found in the subcutaneous tissues. Constitutionally, the patient may or may not have a fever, and swelling of the joints.


Palindromic rheumatism is a disease of unknown cause. It has been suggested that it is an abortive form of rheumatoid arthritis, 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).

It typically affects people between the ages of 20 and 50. One study showed an average age of onset of 49.[2]


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