Migratory Arthritis

What is migratory arthritis?

Migratory arthritis is a type of arthritis; a disorder which causes inflammation in the joints.

It's a rare condition which passes between joints progressively, typically affecting larger joints. It is often seen to affect patients in joints such as the ankle, knee, elbow, shoulder or hip. After an initial flare up, the inflammation travels to other parts of the body - this is where the 'migratory' part of the term is derived.

While arthritis is usually associated with older people, migratory arthritis is not restricted to one particular demographic and can affect children.

Migratory arthritis causes

Migratory arthritis is typically seen in the case of a weak immune system, and among its causes are:

AIDS: Or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome virus, attacks the body's immune system, which can consequently lead to joint inflammation and migratory arthritis.

Bacterial endocarditis: This disorder is caused by the inner layers of the heart becoming inflamed, with valves being affected severely. Migratory arthritis is understood to be one of bacterial endocarditis's side effects.

Gonoccocal Arthritis: Migratory arthritis can be the product of Gonorrhea, the sexually transmitted disease.

Hepatitis: Migratory arthritis is one of the joint related diseases which is the result of liver damage caused by Hepatitis B and C.

Rheumatic Fever: Immune systems which are pushed into action by the streptococcal bacterial infection which causes rheumatic fever can lead to inflammation of the joints, including the migratory arthritis condition.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: One of the ways in which the body 'attacks itself' through the chronic condition known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is with migratory arthritis. The cause for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is not known, but researchers believe that there could be a link to ultraviolet rays, as well as genetics.

Whipple’s Disease: This rare disease comes about due to bacterial infection which disrupts the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food. Along with a depleted immune system and weight loss, migratory arthritis is one of the other possible effects.

Migratory arthritis symptoms

Among the typical symptoms associated with migratory arthritis are:

  • Stiffness of the joints
  • Pronounced swelling in the joints
  • Very intense pain
  • Inability to move body parts in affected areas
  • A pattern of movement attributable to the pain known as 'Cephalocaudal', which is different from traditional arthritis.

Due to the migratory nature of the condition, it is common for symptoms to subside in one joint, rising in another. The movement usually follows a general direction of 'up to down' on its course through the body.

Migratory arthritis treatment

While many medications are prescribed for the management of migratory arthritis, no cure has been identified as of yet. Inflammatory medications are a common way of addressing the symptoms associated with the condition, as well as medications which are analgesic in their nature. Among the typical medications prescribed are Acetaminophen, Dicolfenac, Ibuprofen and Naproxen.

It should be noted again that while these medications can offer relief, they are not a cure for the disease. The cause of migratory arthritis must first be identified before a cure can be found for a patient. The individual treatment of this cause can lead to the end of the migratory arthritis condition.

Additional therapies include changes to diet and exercise regimes, to augment the medication prescribed. Supplements such as chondroitin, glucosamine and omega-3 oils are sometimes favored by alternative practitioners in order to help the general health of the joints and allow the body to cope better with the pain which migratory arthritis causes.

Course of action

This disorder can be described as a condition which affects different joints across the body, with symptoms moving progressively from one joint to the next. Individuals who notice these symptoms are advised to contact their doctor immediately, in order to have their symptoms assessed and to begin appropriate treatment.

Early treatment can help to address the symptoms more effectively and protect against damage to the joints as a result of migratory arthritis.

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Last Reviewed:
August 14, 2017
Last Updated:
October 24, 2017
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