Calabrese LH. Rheumatoid arthritis and primary care: The case for early diagnosis and treatment . J Am Osteopath Assoc 1999;99(6):313-321. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.19188.8.131.523.
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Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause severe pain and disability. Disease management historically was based on a "therapeutic pyramid" in which treatment escalated as symptoms worsened. However, the demonstration of early joint damage in patients with rheumatoid arthritis has emphasized the importance of early identification and treatment. Key features in establishing a diagnosis include joint examinations, assessments of extra-articular manifestations, laboratory tests, and radiologic examinations. Care must be taken to rule out
other disorders with symptoms that overlap those of rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis typically involves disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and low-dose corticosteroids-often used in combination. A new class of therapeutic agents designed to neutralize inflammatory cytokines has added a new dimension to the therapeutic armamentarium against rheumatoid arthritis. Etanercept, a bioengineered soluble receptor fusion protein that blocks tumor necrosis factor activity, is the first compound in this class to be approved for treatment of patients with refractory rheumatoid arthritis. Therapeutic trials indicate that etanercept can reduce disease activity with relatively few drug-related adverse effects, thus helping persons with rheumatoid arthritis return to more normal, healthy lives.
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