Approach to Polyarthritis for the Primary Care Physician
Complaints of joint pain are commonly seen in clinical practice. Primary care physicians are frequently the first practitioners to work up these complaints. Polyarthritis can be seen in a multitude of diseases. It can be a challenging diagnostic process. In this article, we review the approach to diagnosing polyarthritis joint pain in the primary care setting. Starting with history and physical, we outline the defining characteristics of various causes of arthralgia. We discuss the use of certain laboratory studies including sedimentation rate, antinuclear antibody, and rheumatoid factor. Aspiration of synovial fluid is often required for diagnosis, and we discuss the interpretation of possible results. Primary care physicians can initiate the evaluation of polyarthralgia, and this article outlines a diagnostic approach.