What is undifferentiated seronegative spondyloarthritis?

While I could link off to a bunch of references that probably explain my condition with better accuracy and more detail, here the explanation I give other who are curious enough to ask. Tend to do this by comparing my arthritis against the types of arthritis that are more commonly known, Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid. I also work into my explanation the three words ‘undifferentiated’, ‘seronegative’ and ‘spondyloarthritis’ although not in that order. Even if people don’t quite know the difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid they at least have heard of it which makes the explanation easier to understand, so I am told.

The word ‘seronegative’ means absent from the blood. The ‘Rheumatoid factor’ is made by the body’s immune system and is detectable by doing a blood test. Types of arthritis that test negative for rheumatoid factor in the blood are called seronegative.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition in which bones and cartridge in and around joints degrade over time. As time passes, the bones become fragile and brittle, causing them to break more easily. This is why it is very rare to see Osteoarthritis in a person under 50.

Spondyloarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are much more alike in nature. They are both chronic and systemic auto immune disorders. Just like all forms of arthritis, your joints are subject to inflammation. If that wasn’t annoying enough, the fact that it is an immune disorder means it affects other areas of the body such as your organs, bowels and intestines, eyes and the skin in varying degrees.

What’s an auto-immune disease? Well, in simple terms, your immune system is the all-important system of your body whose purpose is to combat infections, illness and disease. If you have an auto immune disorder, your immune system is, in essence, acting like a teenage prat, by telling you it doesn’t love you anymore and turns against you. Unlike a teenage prat who will usually overcome their angry, affronting, annoying and antagonising adolescence, you immune system’s petulance is a permanent feature. Simply put, it’s out to get you.

There are several types of spondyloarthropathies and the type you have depends on what else is going on. If your spine and pelvis is affected, you may find yourself with ankylosing spondylitis. If your bowel or intestines are affected you may find yourself being labeled with enteropathic spondylitis. Have skin psoriasis or similar condition? You may be diagnosed with Psoriatic arthritis. Reactive spondylitis develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. Coming into contact with bacteria and developing an infection can trigger reactive arthritis. Of course health conditions of all types are more complicated than that. As such, any generalisations for purposes of context I make here should be taken with a large sack of salt. If you have more than one problem of this nature in addition to your joint problems, then you have my deepest sympathy.

I have peripheral spondylitis which means my affected joints are peripheral joints. As for non-joint symptoms, I suffer from episodes of Uveitis, or inflammation of the eye. In the year prior to diagnosis, I had Uveitis more often than I was Uveitis free. It wasn’t pleasant at all.

What I don’t show signs of, thank goodness, is any of the above types of spondylitis. Due to this very fact, I fall into the catch-all category. My spondylitis is undifferentiated.

People with rheumatoid arthritis also often share auto-immune related conditions seen in people with the various forms of spondylitis. As I said earlier, they are similar in nature. However if you take two people who present with the same signs and symptoms, yet one tests positive to the Rheumatoid factor and one does not, the person with the Rheumatoid factor will be diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis and the one who tests negative will be diagnosed with seronegative spondylitis.

That said, you can’t assume that they present the same way in all people. In fact, they rarely will. Rheumatoid arthritis suffers typically have problems with smaller joints, such as toes and fingers. I don’t. Rheumatoid arthritis is typically symmetric meaning it affects corresponding joints on opposite sides of the body. Mine is asymmetric. There was only one occasion my right hip joined my left hip in having a temper tantrum but since then, my right hip has been pain free. My symptoms have almost always affected only left side of my body and very occasionally on the right. This includes the Uveitis.

It may seem odd to say given that I have a dodgy immune system, but the very nature of my arthritis condition today, undifferentiated, seronegative and asymmetric, is actually good news. While there are no guarantees that things won’t change as time moved forward, my long term prognosis is better than what it might have been.