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Evaluation of the adult with polyarticular pain

Robert H Shmerling, MD
Section Editor
Ravinder N Maini, BA, MB BChir, FRCP, FMedSci, FRS
Deputy Editor
Monica Ramirez Curtis, MD, MPH


Polyarticular pain in an adult is encountered frequently in clinical practice. The causes include various self-limited illnesses and others that are potentially disabling and life-threatening. The history and physical examination generally provide the most useful diagnostic information; supporting or confirmatory data are obtained from laboratory and imaging studies or, more rarely, from tissue biopsy. A complete history and physical examination are appropriate for all patients presenting with polyarticular joint pain, since this symptom may be the initial manifestation of a systemic illness.

The list of causes of polyarticular pain is lengthy [1,2] and includes:

Polyarthritis (table 1)

Viral arthritis (table 2)

Postinfectious or reactive arthritis


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jun 10, 2015.
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