Health Discoveries in General Health News

Early RA treatment can change course of arthritis

December 13, 2010
Early treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) soon after symptoms appear can significantly affect how the disease progresses and may prevent deformity and loss of function.

Published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, a study by researchers at the University of Leeds in the U.K. found that seeking medical help within the first few weeks after symptoms develop can make a big difference for patients. Inflammatory arthritis often is shown by joint pain accompanied by swelling and redness.

"Although we now have effective therapies to treat inflammation, we are still unable to act on established structural damage," wrote Dr. Edith Villeneuve and her university colleagues. "Consequently, if treatment is delayed, the cumulative effects of untreated inflammation on function are only partially reversible following treatment."

Current guidelines recommend that patients be see a rheumatologist no longer than six weeks after symptoms begin. At her clinic in Leeds, Villenueve follows a "step-up" approach to treatment, starting with pain relief drugs and gradually moving to more advanced therapy.

Among several clinical trials on arthritis now under way within the North Shore-LIJ Health System is one testing the statin drug Lovastatin on patients with mildly active RA.
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