SAPHO Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

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What causes SAPHO syndrome, and what are risk factors for developing it?

The precise cause of SAPHO syndrome is not known. It is felt that the tendency toward developing SAPHO syndrome can be inherited. Genetic predisposition is suggested by the higher prevalence of HLA-B27, an inherited blood marker, in patients with SAPHO syndrome.

Is SAPHO syndrome related to other joint conditions?

Some researchers feel that the SAPHO syndrome is related to the group of arthritis conditions that typically affect the spine, called the spondyloarthropathies. For further information, please read the Ankylosing Spondylitis and Reactive Arthritis articles.

What are symptoms and signs of SAPHO syndrome?

SAPHO syndrome causes inflammation of joints with pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness. Joints affected can be spinal or away from the spine (peripheral joints) such as the fingers, wrists, or knees. Acne of the skin and pustules of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet are characteristic.

How is SAPHO syndrome diagnosed?

SAPHO syndrome is diagnosed clinically by identifying the characteristic features of the syndrome including synovitis, acne, pustulosis, hyperostosis, and osteitis. The blood test marker antigen HLA-B27, when present, supports the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for SAPHO syndrome?

Treatment of patients with SAPHO syndrome is directed toward the individual symptoms that are present. Generally, treatment involves medications that reduce inflammation in the particular tissues affected. Examples of medications that are used for inflammation include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin], and naproxen [Aleve]) and cortisone medications (either in the form of topical creams, tablets, or by injection into the involved area). Topical cold applications can also help reduce inflammation in some tissues. For patients with persisting joint symptoms, both sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) and methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) have been tried with varying degrees of success. Newer biologic medications, including infliximab (Remicade), have also been used successfully.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015

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