Applauding Research that Seeks to Better Understand Rheumatoid Diseases

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This is a guest post by Dr. Hayes Wilson, Chief of Rheumatology at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, GA

The immune system usually helps keep the body healthy by fighting against harmful germs, like bacteria and viruses, that can make people sick. However, for the 23.5 million Americans with autoimmune diseases[1] like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system can only do so much to protect the body against foreign substances and mistakenly attacks healthy cells instead. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that afflict patients. In addition to RA, common ones include type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus and inflammatory bowel disease.[2]

An estimated 1.5 million U.S. adults are living with RA, a chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints—all symptoms caused by inflammation[3] that can greatly impact activities and daily living. RA robs people of the ability to do simple tasks like button a shirt, cut a steak or open a can of soda, and it can derail someone from having a career, participating in social events or driving. Many people living with RA struggle with symptoms, treatment side effects and persistent disease despite currently available treatments. They continue to need safe and effective treatments that will help them and their physicians to optimally manage their condition over the long term.

In my clinical practice, I care for many patients with RA and often get to know my patients and their families very well. I see firsthand the challenges they may face with this debilitating disease. More research is needed to better understand this condition and how best to safely and effectively manage it and, as a clinician, I’m especially interested in research that can make a difference in the lives of patients living with RA.

At the 2018 American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ACR/ARHP) Annual Meeting, Oct. 19-24 in Chicago, IL, new research is being presented which will help providers understand how we can help guide decision-making in clinical practice for patients with persistent disease.

As a clinician who understands the impact of RA on patients’ lives, I’m excited by research efforts like this, which can bring us closer to helping patients.

[1] Autoimmune diseases. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Office On Women’s Health. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/autoimmune-diseases. Accessed Sept. 14, 2018.

[2] Autoimmune diseases. National Institutes of Health (NIH) – National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Available at: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/autoimmune-diseases. Accessed Sept. 14, 2018.

[3] What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Arthritis Foundation. Available at: https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis/what-is-rheumatoid-arthritis.php. Accessed Sept. 14, 2018.