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Rheumatoid arthritis—management 

Rheumatoid arthritis—management
Rheumatoid arthritis—management
Oxford Textbook of Rheumatology (4 ed.)

Chris Deighton

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Influential guidelines on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) management agree on most key recommendations. Early diagnosis of persistent synovitis, and identification of poor prognostic markers, is essential. Rapid intervention is vital with drugs to suppress inflammation, slow down damaging disease components, and prevent disability. The label of RA covers a broad spectrum of disease severity, and there is controversy about: • whether the same interventions are needed for all patients • whether monotherapy or combination treatment is appropriate • the role of steroids in RA • the appropriate introduction of biological therapies. Treating to specified targets is optimal evidence-based practice, where patients are reviewed regularly for disease activity assessments, and inadequate control rectified. Aiming for remission is the ultimate goal, though for some patients minimal disease activity may be appropriate. Patient education addressing self-management is important, and the multidisciplinary team (MDT: specialist nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, psychologists) needs to be involved from the start to minimize the impact on quality of life of the patient. For established disease, rapid access is important for flares, and to consider whether disease management could be improved. An intermittent overview of established disease is important with access to the MDT, and assessments for comorbidities such as ischaemic heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression, as well as complications of the disease itself such as cervical spine disease, vasculitis, and lung and eye complications. An informed patient needs to be central to all decision making.

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