Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

September 25, 2008 8:32:08 AM PDT
Arthritis is not just an older person's disease. In fact, inflammatory arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis in particular, tends to begin in the 30's and 40's, says Dr. Eric Ruderman, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.(NEWS RELEASE)There is a big difference between degenerative arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, where the main issue is wear and tear on the joints, and inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), where the main issue is an inflammatory process in the tissue lining the joint, leading to damage and destruction of bone and cartilage, Dr. Ruderman adds.

Rheumatoid arthritis, like many types of arthritis, more commonly affects women - about 75-80%, according to the doctor.

Dr Ruderman says that current therapies, including biologic treatments, combined with careful management by a rheumatologist, do more than just alleviate pain, they can stop the disease process. In fact, with aggressive use of these therapies, we expect that 40-50% will be in remission, albeit with ongoing treatment, he says. Newer treatments in the pipeline, and about to be released, my improve this even more.

Rheumatologists are specialists in both the management of rheumatoid arthritis and the medications used to treat this disease. Consultation with a rheumatologist is important any time a patient or their primary care physician suspects they have this disease, just as they would consult with an oncologist if they suspected they had cancer. Rheumatoid arthritis causes not only pain and discomfort, but significant disability (as many as 30% unable to work in 2-3 if not treated), and we can prevent this.

Warning signs of possible RA include:

  • Pain and swelling in 3 or more joints
  • Tenderness in the joints at the base of the fingers or toes
  • Stiffness in the morning lasting more that 30-45 minutes
  • Treatments for RA include:

    Traditional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), among which low-dose methotrexate is the most commonly used. Newer, biologic DMARDs, such as Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Orencia, and Rituxan, which are typically given after methotrexate has proven to be inadequate Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which are used for adjunctive pain relief, but not for primary management Prednisone or other steroids, which are used sparingly because of side effects, but are often the fastest way to reduce pain and inflammation


    Load Comments