The term "Autoimmune Arthritis" dates back to the 1980's, when scientists used it to differentiate arthritis types in research. In 2009, the original founders (of IAAM, which is now IFAA) searched for an existing term that could best explain a small group of diseases where patients were reporting classic autoimmune symptoms as well as major joint involvement. The team searched descriptive terms and classifications until they found "autoimmune arthritis" in several research studies published on PubMed. Then they recruited a group of rheumatologists who agreed to help identify any recorded definition or disease list inclusive of this term; after much research, they determined that none existed.
While this investigation was underway, the Founders continued to communicate with patients around the world, collecting information about their earliest symptoms, treatments, and current disease progression; it was realized that a handful of diseases seemingly shared overlapping symptoms, regardless of the diagnosis. IFAA recruited a rheumatologist, who enlisted his rheumatology office group, to help determine which diseases most often involved joints as a primary symptom, plus were autoimmune. While it was understood many diseases were autoimmune and could have arthritis, we chose to start by focusing on those that have the most common early symptoms, disease progression, treatment, and chance for remission.
As research into the immune system has advanced, some diseases once thought to be "autoimmune" are now categorized as "autoinflammatory" ("auto" as the commonality, which means "immune mediated" (Reference 2). Autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases share common characteristics in that both groups of disorders result from the immune system attacking the body’s own tissues, and also result in increased inflammation. Some of these autoinflammatory diseases, like Adult Onset Still's Disease (AOSD) & Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (sJIA), are truly triggered by the "innate immune system" while others, like spondylitis diseases, are thought to fall in a continuum between autoinflammatory and autoimmune-where there are both genetic + environmental triggers. As research progresses, IFAA will continue to be a foundation that focuses on Autoimmune Arthritis and associated diseases, including those of an Autoinflammatory Arthritis nature. We believe continued differentiation is important to identifying these diseases with overlapping symptom onset, so that research into better treatments can continue. Symptoms of autoimmune/autoinflammatory diseases, in addition to the joint inflammation, typically include:
While many diseases that are autoimmune or autoinflammatory can involve arthritis, some are more similar in onset, continued symptoms, treatment, and potential for remission, which can result in detection and diagnosis confusion. Some of the most similar diseases include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Still's Disease, Sjogren's Syndrome, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and Ankylosing Spondylitis/Axial Spondyloarthropathy. When diseases are not fully developed, or overlap and cannot be determined which disease diagnosis should be rendered, this is often diagnosed as Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease or Undifferentiated Spondyloarthropathy.
Yes and no. Because IFAA created the first official organization based entirely on the autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases with an arthritic component and worked to create educational and awareness programs surrounding these efforts, “autoimmune arthritis” and "autoinflammatory arthritis" is referred to as an “unregistered or common law trademark” to IFAA in regards to how the term is used in the public.
Unregistered trademarks are enforceable marks created by a business or individual to signify or distinguish a product or service, and may receive protection under the federal "Lanham Act" (15 USC § 1125), which includes prohibition against commercial misrepresentation of source or origins of goods. While other organizations can and are encouraged to use the term, they cannot change the definition or disease list to suit their own needs, as that would misrepresent and negate our original, established, community service. It is the established and functional use of the name, not its formal registration, that creates a trademark ownership. "TM" is the symbol used for an unregistered trademark that indicates intellectual property.
1. Arthritis Foundation (United States). "What is Arthritis?"-Inflammatory Arthritis. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis.php, 2016.
2. Adamopoulos, I.E. "Autoimmune or Autoiflammatory? Bad to the Bone", International Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. Int J Clin Rheumatol. 2015;10(1):5-7.
Note: Autoimmune Arthritis is not a classification, it is a description to differentiate a cluster of diseases that are autoimmune and have arthritis involvement. There are other types of arthritis, other than autoimmune or degenerative, such as gout. There are also other types of autoimmune diseases that do not include arthritis.
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