Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, inflammatory, systemic disease characterized by joint pain and swelling, joint destruction, and the formation of pannus (a membrane of granulation tissue on the surfaces of the joint). RA typically affects many different joints and may also affect internal organs. It can be chronic and is often characterized by flares and remissions.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system, for unknown reasons, attacks a person's own cells inside the joint capsule. White blood cells that are part of the normal immune system travel to the synovium and causes inflammation called synovitis. In addition, the cells of the synovium grow and divide abnormally, making the normally thin synovium thick and resulting in joint swelling.
As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, these abnormal synovial cells begin to invade and destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. The surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support and stabilize the joint become weak and unable to work normally. It is thought that significant damage to bones begins during the first year or two that a person has the disease. This is one reason early diagnosis and treatment is so important in the management of rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 2.1 million Americans, mostly women (1.5 million women / 600,000 men). Onset is usually in middle age, but may occur in the 20s and 30s.
Treatment is designed to control disease activity, reduce symptoms, slow joint damage and optimize quality of life.
The Medifocus Guide on Rheumatoid Arthritis provides answers to the following important questions and medical issues:
What are the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
Are there any recognized risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis?
What kinds of medical tests are used to establish the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis?
What is the current standard of care for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis?
What treatment options are available for the management of rheumatoid arthritis?
Are there any promising new developments or potential breakthroughs in treatment?
Who are the most notable medical authorities who specialize in rheumatoid arthritis?
Where are the leading hospitals and centers of research for rheumatoid arthritis?
What are the most important questions to ask my doctor about rheumatoid arthritis?
What Your Doctor Reads:
This MediFocus Guide contains an extensive listing of citations and abstracts of recent journal articles that have been published about this condition in trustworthy medical journals. This is the same type of information that is available to physicians and other health care professionals. A partial selection of journal articles that are abstracted in this MediFocus Guide includes:
Leflunomide for rheumatoid arthritis. Drug & Therapeutics Bulletin. 2000
Pharmacoeconomics of drug therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000
New and future drug therapies for rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000
Current treatment paradigms in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000
Prognostic factors in early rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000
Functional disability and quality-of-life assessment in clinical practice. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000
Radiographic imaging: the 'gold standard' for assessment of disease progression in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000
New insights into the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000
Tumor necrosis factor inactivation in the management of rheumatoid arthritis. Southern Medical Journal. 2000
Yttrium radiosynoviorthesis in the treatment of knee arthritis in rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2000
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