People with rheumatoid arthritis sometimes liken the chronic inflammatory disorder to a fire. Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is caused when the immune system attacks the joints. Symptoms include pain and warm, swollen joints, and over years they often spread from fingers and toes to elbows, hips and shoulders. Severe cases can lead to deformities that leave joints gnarled and disabled, and sometimes body parts such as the eyes, lungs and skin are affected.
Rheumatologist Kevin Deane, MD, PhD, an associate professor at the University of ColoradoSchool of Medicine, uses the same analogy as his patients. But he takes it one step farther.
“If a fire can be caught early, it is quite easy to extinguish, perhaps even with a simple bucket of water,” Deane said. “RA is likely like that, where if we catch it early before the ‘inferno’ stage with blood testing, even mild drugs might stop it from getting worse.”
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