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Diagnosed With Rheumatoid Arthritis? HSS Doctor Offers Next Step Suggestion

Dr. Dee Dee Wu of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Dee Dee Wu of Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: HSS

PARAMUS, N.J. -- HSS rheumatologist Dee Dee Wu provides an in-depth understanding of rheumatoid arthritis in part two of a two-part series.

How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is based predominantly on the presence of clinical symptoms. X-rays of affected joints may show abnormalities typical of RA, such as erosions, joint space narrowing or peri-articular osteopenia. An MRI or ultrasound can be performed to look for subtle joint inflammation or damage if x-rays are normal.

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

Early initiation of appropriate therapy is critical in the management of rheumatoid arthritis, as this will decrease the risk of developing irreversible joint damage. Mild to moderate RA can be managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and traditional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Patients with severe disease are often treated with biologic agents, such as anti-tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (anti-TNFs). Frequently, oral steroids are used to control the joint pain and inflammation until the long-term medications take effect.

Are there any useful lifestyle modifications that I can make?

Several lifestyle modifications have been shown to be beneficial in rheumatoid arthritis, including cutting out smoking, losing weight and increasing exercise. The benefits of various diets have been investigated, but the effects remain uncertain with the exception of diets rich in fish oil, which have been shown to correlate with a decrease in arthritic symptoms.

Dr. Dee Dee Wu is a Rheumatologist at HSS, specializing in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. Dr. Wu currently practices at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Manhattan campus and the Paramus Outpatient Center.