Identifying the cause of polyarthritis can be difficult because of the extensive differential diagnosis. A thorough history and a complete physical examination are essential. Clinical factors such as disease chronology, inflammation, distribution, extra-articular manifestations, disease course are helpful in narrowing the possible causes. Many classic laboratory tests are nonspecific but these, together with specific tests and radiographs, may provide more useful diagnostic clues. Early arthritis may progress into established rheumatoid arthritis or another definite arthropathy, may resolve spontaneously, or may remain undifferentiated. To achieve better diagnosis and outcome in arthritis, it is important to recognize inflammatory arthritis first, then to establish the definitive diagnosis of arthritis and finally to estimate the risk of developing persistent or/and erosive irreversible arthritis to propose an optimal therapeutic strategy (within 3 months) in order to avoid joint destructions and function-loss and to provide a good quality of life.
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