Early rheumatoid arthritis.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease in which early aggressive therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs can improve outcome and prevent joint damage. While such therapy is effective, its application can be limited by diagnostic uncertainty in patients with early inflammatory arthritis and concerns about treatment of patients whose disease would remit spontaneously. The purpose of current research is therefore to identify prognostic markers of early disease and to determine the role of aggressive treatment strategies in inducing remission in such patients. RECENT FINDINGS: Recent research has provided new information on genetic markers predicting rapid progression of joint destruction; the role of serology, in particularly, antibodies to citrullinated peptides in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis; the utility of radiographic techniques in detecting both early synovitis and bone erosion; and the value of combination therapy in controlling signs, symptoms and radiographic progression. Recent clinical studies support the efficacy of a combination of methotrexate with a biological agent, especially a tumor-necrosis-factor blocker, in reducing disease activity. SUMMARY: While current treatment approaches can produce significant benefits in patients with early arthritis, future investigation is needed to target therapy more selectively and to determine which patients respond best to various agents or combinations.
Mitchell, KL; Pisetsky, DS
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