o you ache when it rains? Are your joints constantly stiff or painful when you wake up in the morning? These may be more than signs of aging, they may be symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, a joint disease that causes the body's immune system to attack joint tissues, resulting in inflammation and pain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) affects
nearly two percent of the country's population with the disease growing in prevalence, especially as the
population lives longer. Winthrop's Rheumatoid Arthritis Center was
specially created to address the
unique health needs of patients
living with joint disorders.
Dr. Steven Carsons, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology at Winthrop, explained that over the past 10 years, Rheumatoid Arthritis has been recognized as a
significant health problem.
"The disease, which is more common among women between the ages of 30-50 years, is the leading cause of joint deformity and pain, restricting daily activities for many patients,"
stated Dr. Carsons. "We are also seeing that about half of the RA patients at Winthrop have developed the disorder after the age of 60, prompting us to study this growing incidence."
People who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis are plagued with inflammation of the joints caused by the body's own attack on joint tissues. This results in pain and swelling in the most commonly affected parts of the body such as the hands, wrists, ankles, feet and elbows. Inflammation can also cause low-grade fevers, loss of appetite and weight loss.
The Rheumatoid Arthritis Center
at Winthrop focuses on the early
diagnosis and treatment of the disease, the best defense for slowing the
progression of the disorder and
limiting damage to the joints. The Center provides diagnostic evaluations of patients suspected of having
rheumatic disorders, provides patients with education and information through free community lectures and nursing education, offers the latest
in drug and biologic therapy and is involved in a number of important clinical trials of new agents to treat RA. Virginia Schneider of Baldwin has suffered from the disabling effects of RA for 10 years. Pain and swelling in her shoulders and knees disabled Ms. Schneider for years. Her RA became so bad that she had to stop working altogether in 1998.
Virginia Schneider (right) receives
her treatment at Winthrop's Rheumatoid Arthritis Center from
Patty Leary, RN (left).|
After years of different treatments and medications, Dr. Carsons approached Ms. Schneider about a clinical study being conducted at Winthrop's RA Center for the drug, Remicade. Given by I.V. infusion
every eight weeks, Remicade had a profound effect on Ms. Schneider's quality of life.
"Since day one, the treatment Dr. Carsons introduced me to has worked better than any other medication I have taken for my arthritis," exclaimed Ms. Schneider, who continued on the regimen well after the clinical study had been completed.
"I feel better now than ever before," she added. "I was virtually disabled for two years with my rheumatoid arthritis, but thanks to
the wonderful treatment I receive
here at Winthrop, my lifestyle has greatly improved."
Hope on the Horizon
Dr. Carsons said that there have been a number of significant advances over the past five years in the treatment and management of the disease.
"Treatment options are greater than ever before," he stated. "We
are seeing a new generation of
anti-inflammatories (i.e. Cox 2 inhibitors like Vioxx and Celebrex) which are making drug therapies
more effective and safer. In addition, oral medications are faster acting. Biological agents have also become increasingly popular, replacing the
traditional chemical drug therapy."
The Winthrop Rheumatoid Arthritis Center offers patients a multi-disciplinary approach to wellness, combining traditional arthritis therapy with physical therapy for specialized exercises, and the referral to Winthrop's Pain Management Center when needed. The Center also works closely with Winthrop's Orthopedic Department for joint reconstruction in cases of severe RA and difficulties with normal joint function.
While the cause of RA is still unknown and no cure currently exists, doctors and researchers continue on the path to unlocking the mystery. Until then, patients can rest easier knowing that Winthrop's comprehensive Rheumatoid Arthritis Center and its resources are only a phone call away.
For more information on Winthrop's Rheumatoid Arthritis Center, call 516-663-2097 or