-- Robert Preidt
SATURDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Immediate and effective
treatment for rheumatoid arthritis reduces the risk that patients
will have joint damage and disability within a few years, a new
The findings show the need for doctors to discourage patients
from delaying treatment, according to the researchers at the
Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
"We need to educate people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about this. Some want to delay treatment because they are afraid. They haven't wrapped their heads around the fact that they have this disease, or they are reluctant to start taking medication. Some resort to non-medicinal approaches, many of which have limited effect," study lead investigator and rheumatologist Dr. Vivian Bykerk said in a hospital news release.
"Unfortunately, I have seen too many people delay effective treatment approaches and they come back a year later very disappointed, often with joint damage that could have been prevented. The longer you have inflammation in the joints, the more likely you are to have joint damage, and it is going to impact how you function down the road," she added.
The study included 833 patients with early rheumatoid arthritis
-- defined as having symptoms for a year or less. Six months into
the study, the patients were classified as having achieved low
disease activity or not. Low disease activity means that joint
pain, swelling and other signs of inflammation are significantly
The 56 percent of patients who achieved low disease activity at
six months were much less likely to have joint damage and
disability at two years, according to the findings to be presented
Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of
Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals in
"We believe there is a window in which people have a much better chance of getting rheumatoid arthritis under good control, often with less intense therapy, and the window is within the first three months of developing joint inflammation," Bykerk said.
These findings show the need for doctors to warn patients about
the hazards of delaying therapy and to follow patients more often
in the early stages of treatment, she added.
Research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The Arthritis Foundation has more on
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